Soccer teams can be a little bit two-faced sometimes. There is the home face, the side that is aggressive and attacking, where only a win will do and anything else is a disappointment. Then there is the identity that the team assumes on the road: more defensive, less concerned about victory and more so about getting any points at all.
These two identities are borne of many factors. Home sides are more comfortable in their own building, they have fan support behind them, and an opponent who is often less aggressive. On the road, naturally, all of the opposites apply, hence why teams play a more defensive style.
On Saturday, when Toronto FC returns home after two months on the road, there is going to be a lot of pressure on the team to change their playing style. Supporters will be expecting the team to play a more open and attacking style, similar to that which they played last year.
But after a successful road trip there really isn't a need for Toronto FC to change a thing. Play a tad bit more aggressive and attacking perhaps, but stick to the same structure that has gotten the team this far.
For one, the defense first mentality doesn't have to change. Toronto FC was significantly better defensively at home than on the road last season, allowing 22 goals at home compared to an astounding 36 on the road. 22 still wasn't anything to be proud of, however, as only three teams allowed more goals at home.
Obviously, fans want to see attacking football at home, but that doesn't mean the team needs to sacrifice the strong defensive structure that they have built. Toronto FC was as strong as they have ever been at home last season, but defensive deficiencies made many games much harder than they needed to be.
This rings especially true due to their first visitor this season: FC Dallas. Dallas is among the best offensive teams in Major League Soccer, and capable of embarrassing opponents if allowed to run free.
On the flip side, however, they are tied with the New York Red Bulls for worst defensive team in the league. So if Toronto takes care of things in their own end, they are likely to have plenty of chances going the other way.
It's not like the club's new strategy has necessarily sacrificed a great deal of offense, either. The last two games Toronto FC has looked good in attack. If it wasn't for an outstanding game from Jake Gleeson in the Portland net, coupled with some poor finishing, Toronto FC could have handily beat the Timbers.
Finally, playing a very similar style at home and on the road will only help the club seamlessly transition between the two. Towards the end of last season, Toronto looked like a completely different club at home and on the road. Away from home,they were often a disorganized mess which led to several lopsided losses. After last year's season-opening road trip the club would only win one more game on the road.
Having a consistent setup at home and on the road will only help the team play more comfortably on the road. Hopefully, this will help the team maintain a similar road form to what they have already accomplished.
Toronto FC has already established an identity, perhaps more than ever before in franchise history. There is no need to change it just to appease fans at BMO Field. At the end of the day, winning will do that just fine.