It's not long now until the part of the season on which Toronto FC will ultimately be judged. For most supporters, the MLS Cup, and how far Toronto FC advance, is the ultimate metric by which this season will be measured. A long run and it will be a success, quick and painful elimination, like last year, and heads might roll.
But before all that, Toronto FC still have a pair of games to determine how they start their playoff campaign. In the next two matches, there is plenty to play for: the top spot in the Eastern Conference, a first-round bye, the club's first ever playoff home game and home field advantage.
Today is perhaps the biggest game so far this regular season, a 401 derby against the Montreal Impact. Last season, in the final game of the year, Toronto FC lost to the Impact and subsequently fell to 6th place in the East, losing out on a chance to play their knockout round game at home. They would lose that match 3-0 to the Impact at Saputo Stadium.
Here are three stories to look for in today's match:
Going into the playoffs with momentum
When Toronto FC made the playoffs last year, for the first time in their history, they admitted to being too relieved. They lost focus for a little bit, and it was enough to cost them as they never won again. For whatever reason, the same thing seems to be happening again this season.
Ever since Toronto clinched a playoff spot after a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union the have a loss and a draw in their past two games. The club has not won in their last four either, all of which were played at home. On the road today Toronto FC have a chance to gain some momentum on the road.
The Atomic Ant is Back
Well, that took longer than expected. When Sebastian Giovinco went down to an adductor injury during a 1-0 loss to Montreal on August 27, news out of the club was that it would only hold him out for a short amount of time. Over a month later, and Giovinco has yet to make an appearance.
Today, after using the international break to recover, he is available for selection. In what capacity the team uses him remains to be seen, but they will want their star player in the best form possible going into the playoffs. Either way, he's likely to make his return to the pitch during today's match.
Toronto FC certainly hasn't made it easy on themselves down the stretch. Winning even one of four games during their recent homestand would have seen them in a much better spot right now. But instead, they burned their games in hand and are forced to rely on other results if they want this season to end favourable.
A home playoff game is all but a certainty at this point, but if Toronto wants to skip the first round of the playoffs, as one of the top two teams in the East, they have work to do. They currently trail both New York teams by two points, and will have to hope one of them slips up in their next two matches.
Montreal could also catch Toronto if they aren't careful, but would need two wins and two Toronto losses in order to do so. That doesn't seem likely considering Toronto finish their season against the Chicago Fire at home.
To be released at 2:00 p.m.
Venue: BMO Field Toronto, ON
Kickoff: 3:00 p.m. Eastern
SB Nation Opposition Blog: Mount Royal Soccer
TV: TSN 2
Streaming: TSN Go