Wednesday night at BMO Field saw the birth of Toronto FC 2.0.
“It was amazing,” Jozy Altidore told ESPN after a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union sealed the Reds’ place in their first Eastern Conference semi-final. “It almost feels like soccer in Toronto is reborn again, for Toronto FC.
“So to be a part of a night like this where you saw the fans kind of come alive again like they were that first year... I remember playing here [in 2007 with the New York Red Bulls] and it was amazing. So to be a part of it was a special night.”
Toronto fans quickly established themselves as among the most passionate in MLS after the city’s arrival in North America’s top soccer league in 2007. They have upheld that reputation to the present day but it could have been in danger of fading had their nine-year run without a single playoff appearance carried on much longer.
Now, with the club in the playoffs in back-to-back years and recording their first postseason win against the Union, BMO Field has been rejuvenated.
“That’s the reason for it, is to give every person inside this stadium tonight a taste,” captain Michael Bradley said. “Players, fans, everybody - that just says, ‘listen, we leave everything on the field for the badge and for the club and for you guys [the fans]. You guys make an atmosphere that makes a difference for us and if you continue to help us and we continue to leave everything on the field for you guys, then it’s only going to get more fun’.”
“I think it seems like it’s a weight that’s been on this organization for a little bit,” Drew Moor added. “To be a part of it, to have just a small part of it, is pretty special but this is just such a special organization, a group that wants to compete for championships year in, year out.
“When we turn in performances like that, we get the support we got like that, and all the small pieces behind the scenes that people don’t even see, it makes wins like that feel that much better.”
The lingering presence of one unlikely admirer of the scene at full time illustrated just how memorable it was for players and fans alike.
“I stayed after the game to try and soak it all in,” Alejandro Bedoya, the scorer of the Union’s only goal, admitted. “This atmosphere is a sign of how far the league has come.”