Seven away games played, eleven points earned, and at least three points more than the minimum set by Bill Manning to start the season. With one final away game on their eight-game road trip, the third place Toronto FC has begun to identify themselves as "Road Warriors". Gritty games with bend-don't-break defensive stands have done the trick as Toronto FC keeps rolling. Here are the big talking points of their season so far.
Weak Eastern Conference Making Schedule Easier
Of the seven games played so far, five have been against Eastern Conference opponents with Toronto FC picking up at least a draw in all of those games. While more Eastern conference games also means less travel, the East has been sub-par compared to that of the West. The Philadelphia Union, who lead the East on 12 points, would only fill the sixth and final playoff spot in the West showcasing the dominance of the other conference. Teams like LA Galaxy and FC Dallas who continue to boss the West will be true tests for Toronto FC if they want to be considered one of the best teams in the league. Toronto should be happy with the results they've gotten, and even the ones they didn't pick up points can be excused.
The two losses, which came against Western opponents, both involved dubious referee decisions with a non-foul in Kansas City and sending off in Colorado. Toronto FC should be content to look past these matches and continue their strong performances.
Worst to First (In Goals Allowed)
Breathe easy Toronto FC fans, for the first time in a decade - we have a defense. That's right, the team that managed to concede 50 plus goals last season has given up a league-best five goals against this season. If that was to continue over the season Toronto FC would amount to 24 goals over 34 games, less than half of what was scored in 2015.
This has been led by the key signings of Steven Beitashour, Drew Moor and Clint Irwin. As expected, the defensive trio has brought experience and a calmness to the backline which not only las led to calmer play but confidence as well. It's refreshing to watch defensive spells of play while still having my fingernails intact.
Once Toronto FC begins its home games keep an eye on how the defense changes. With Vanney likely implementing a more offensive style of play at home, look to see a larger gap between the pressing midfield and the defense and how Toronto FC responds to counter attacks.
What to Watch for in the Coming Weeks
Portland, Dallas, Vancouver, New York City. The next four games will see the Reds play teams going through very different spells. With Portland, a team who have let in 11 goals in their last five games - playing inconsistently against their opponents. A 4-1 loss to Orlando was followed up with a draw in LA and a 3-1 loss to FC Dallas. Toronto FC should hope for at least a point against Portland, who will also have to play an underachieving Revolution team midweek.
To finally open up at home, current kings of the West FC Dallas will be in town. This will be Toronto's opportunity to showcase they are the "real deal" and compete with one of the best teams in the league in the last year. A friendly reminder that this fixture last year was a lifeless 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo after returning from their 2015 road trip. However, with this year's strong start, expect to see Toronto FC play with life and confidence playing under the lights, and roof, after months away from home.
Finally, home games against struggling teams Vancouver and NYCFC should mean easy points for Vanney's men. Both teams have leaked goals and been unable to get results at home. If they don't improve their form Toronto FC will have the golden opportunity to take advantage of teams out of form and solidify their opponents' places at the bottom of MLS.