Even on the night of arguably the biggest win in franchise history, Toronto FC still got a little bit unlucky.
Their 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, the first playoff victory in club history, was given second-page treatment as the Toronto Raptors opened their season against the Detroit Pistons. The Raptors game was broadcast on TSN’s main channel, which Toronto FC was relegated to TSN 2. The basketball game was also on the radio.
It’s come to be a bit of a theme for Toronto FC, who can’t seem to catch a break in the city’s saturated sports market. The biggest moment in franchise history prior to this week, their playoff-clinching win over the New York Red Bulls last year, came on the same night as Jose Bautista’s bat flip. Even their first-ever playoff appearance got overshadowed by the Blue Jays parting ways with GM Alex Anthopoulos.
The good news for the club is that while their historic first-round victory was partially overshadowed by a Raptors team with a more prominent place in the Toronto sports’ hierarchy, it got them to this weekend. Tonight, when Toronto FC plays the home leg of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against New York City FC, they will have the stage all to themselves.
The Blue Jays have already packed their bags, and the Toronto Raptors aren’t playing today, while the Leafs have a road game against the Islanders. Toronto FC can ill-afford to pass up an opportunity of this magnitude: the spotlight of the city’s sports scene so rarely shines on them.
Today, it would seem, is somewhat of a perfect storm for the club. They are playing a team in New York City FC who are a lot more attractive to the casual fan than Philadelphia, a team without any big name stars. Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Frank Lampard are sure to bring a crowd.
Toronto FC will also be on the TSN main channel today, but will still have to go up against a Maple Leafs game.
While Wednesday had temperatures that felt like they were bellow zero, tonight should be a slightly more tolerable 6 degrees for most of the match. With little else going on in the city’s sports scene, there are very few, if any, tickets still remaining.
Wednesday, against the Union, was perhaps the best atmosphere ever at BMO Field. But one couldn’t help but wonder what it would have sounded like with an extra 9,000 people in the stands.
But Toronto FC will also know that, similar to Wednesday, they are responsible to some degree for getting those fans out of their seats. They did that well against the Union, getting an early goal and two others while creating several other exciting chances.
Today against New York City FC there are bound to be more, as the visitors today are the worst defensive team in the playoffs. They were also the league’s best offensive team during the regular season, meaning goals should be plentiful tonight.
If Toronto FC can put on a spectacle in one of the rare moments that the city is watching it could be a huge moment for the franchise. Tonight they have a legitimate chance to show the city’s sports fans what they have been missing all season.
This certainly isn’t the TFC of yesteryears. The quality on the pitch and in the stands is the best it has ever been. Now Toronto FC has a chance to turn that into something special.