The MLS Cup is Toronto FC’s ultimate goal and the successes of the Portland Timbers in 2015 and the Colorado Rapids in 2010 - at BMO Field - prove that one does not need to be a regular-season table topper to win it all.
That said, there is no doubt that many fans had their hopes of a Supporters’ Shield victory shattered by a disastrous four-game home stand. Just like last year, TFC failed to use games in hand to their advantage and seem to be backing into the play-offs again. So, with two games remaining, what will constitute as a successful regular season in 2016?
Let's start with the obvious: thanks to other results, TFC will play a home playoff game for the first time. Preferably, it would have come in the Eastern Conference semi-finals but with current form considered, a third-place finish is seeming more likely. Sebastian Giovinco’s return could turn things around very quickly in that regard, but given the team found a way to win regularly when another one of its stars, Jozy Altidore, was out, their recent issues may run deeper and make this recent four-game home stand even more frustrating.
Back in late July and early August, Toronto had another run of four matches at BMO Field. It was key to their moving up in the standings as TFC coolly claimed all 12 points on offer while outscoring their opponents 12-2. As the season wears on, expecting such form is a bit much, especially with an MVP-calibre player out. However, failing to win a single game and only picking up three points in total has ended TFC's Supporters’ Shield hopes, may cost them a bye through the first round of the playoffs and left the club searching for some positivity to take into the postseason.
Toronto currently sit level with their franchise record in regular-season points of 49. They seemed poised to smash that mark a month ago but for the recent setbacks. In the context of history and statistics, TFC will have their best season to date with a single point in their last two matches. However, when subjective analysis comes into play, this season has had a strange feeling of deja vu to it recently. The 3-0 blowout in Montreal last year was evidence of what happens when a team is lacking momentum going into the play-offs. Toronto as a city has a fragile mentality when it comes to crunch time, which may be trickling into TFC's locker room right now.
That can all change if the team turns a corner and wins its last two games. It would be fair to consider the 2016 regular season a success on those terms, while still reasonable to hope for even better next year given the number of opportunities that have been missed. From the terrible form playing against teams down one or two men to this recent home stand, an argument can be made that Toronto could have and should have had it even better. And ultimately, that's a step in the right direction for fans who suffered for eight years without a playoff team.
Whatever happens in these final two matches, TFC has a home playoff date to look forward to. The defence has turned a corner after years of issues. Armando Cooper has been an exciting new addition who could ease the pressure on Altidore and Giovinco with his flair and creativity. This season has been a success on those terms and more, but after a glimpse of our first major MLS trophy, we should hope to have even more success in the future. And who knows, two strong performances could yet be the catalyst for our first MLS Cup.