Jonathan Osorio described it as a dream that even he didn’t dream of. He was talking about Toronto FC’s 5-0 away victory over New York City FC in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. But he might as well have been talking about Toronto FC’s playoffs as a whole.
Even Toronto FC’s most optimistic fans, who until recently were few and far between among the cynics as the club descended into year after year into chaos, are unlikely to have dreamed this big. Sure the conference finals, even MLS Cup, crossed their minds. But to do it like this, with the players that they have, in a flashy stadium, with the crowd support they have had behind them. They would have shaken their head in disbelief.
The best, it would seem, is still ahead. Tonight, the lights will get just a little bit brighter. Fans are expected to turn out in historic numbers. The stage has never been bigger. And no matter what happens tonight for Toronto FC, the match will prove how far they have come as a franchise.
Circumstances are still by no means perfect for Toronto FC. Saturday’s Grey Cup at BMO Field meant that the Conference final second leg had to be played today versus the weekend stage that it deserved. The city’s media was also preoccupied with the other “football”.
The weather also doesn’t look likely to cooperate. It is incredibly likely to rain tonight, and windy BMO Field is never an ideal place to be when that happens. Not only could that turn some fans away, it could also pose issues for the grass. The Grey Cup has already put extra stress on the pitch.
However, the Grey Cup also brought with it a big added bonus: an expanded stadium of 35,000 for tonight’s match. All of those seats are expected to be filled tonight, creating the biggest crowd in Toronto FC’s history at BMO Field.
That promises to create an unbelievable atmosphere, regardless of mother nature trying to spoil the fun. Toronto FC fans are working on something special tonight as well, so if you have time today pick up red and white streamers and wait for the signal.
The team that they support now believes every bit as much as they do that their dreams can become a reality. More than ever it is is a belief built on fact: this team has displayed time and time again that they won’t go down easily. They have two big playoff round victories to make that case.
The first leg against Montreal was further evidence. Any former Toronto FC team would have folded up shop after going down 3-0 in the playoffs, in fact the club is only a year removed from doing just that. But this side fought back, and got the two away goals they needed to stay alive.
This club is too proud to just role over and die like they did under similar circumstances in last year’s playoffs. The players who wear the kit now legitimately care about it, something that has unfortunately been all too rare in the past. This isn’t a joke anymore.
In fact, many come into tonight’s game with the believing that Toronto FC are actually in the better shape of the two teams. Yes, even though they are losing on aggregate. That, if nothing else, shows how far this team has come in distancing itself from its troubled past.
Heartbreak could well await tonight, as could the promise of an even bigger game at BMO Field should Toronto FC progress. But no matter what happens, Toronto FC has had their first truly successful season in franchise history. That in itself is worth celebrating.