All Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders can do now is wait. Their preparation for Saturday’s MLS Cup final is all but complete; at this point, staying sharp and focused while avoiding injury is the sole task of the two sets of players, but they have another 48 hours to get through before matchday at BMO Field.
And so they kill some time answering the questions of the assembled reporters, with press scrums much busier than usual thanks to the arrival of national and international media in Toronto. There is a lot of reflecting on the individual and team journeys to this point and talk of special dressing rooms.
If the scrutiny is having any kind of overwhelming effect on TFC, they are certainly not showing it. When asked if he saw any similarities between Toronto and the MLS Cup-winning teams he had been on with Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers, Will Johnson cheerfully noted that he “could talk for a long, long time about that” and didn’t look adverse to doing so.
Indeed, the idea that all the noise before the match itself is some kind of burden on the players was dismissed by the Canadian midfielder, who was asked what advice he would give his team-mates having been through this process before.
“Try to take it in and slow things down,” Johnson said. “Things go very quickly this week. Obviously there’s a lot of buzz, you’re always doing something, you’re always thinking about the next thing instead of what you’re actually currently doing. So you have to enjoy it, you have to try to live in the moment versus always looking to what’s next.
“All of us want to get to the game as quickly as possible, but this week is special for a reason. You’ve earned a right to be part of this week. Soak it up, enjoy it and stay focused on the game, not all the other stuff around the game, and afterwards reflect and hopefully have no regrets. Leave everything you’ve got on the field.”
“I think you embrace [the attention], it’s fun,” Johnson added. “The more people that show up, the better. This is what we do. We want to play the best soccer we can play to entertain and get results and get 36,000 people on their feet like we did last weekend, that’s what we want to do.
“When I walk in here and see a big scrum that is three times the size of anything I’ve seen this year, that’s like ‘OK, cool’. We’ve earned that right. We’ve earned the right for people to come and for us to be able to showcase what we’re all about here at Toronto FC to North America and the world.”
If anyone in particular had heeded Johnson’s advice, it was Justin Morrow - though he also seemed to have looked to Seattle for a lesson in how to handle the build-up to a big game.
Morrow said: “I was looking forward to media day like the Super Bowl media day, so I could say I’m just here not to get fined.
“This is my shining moment instead, so let’s go.”