BMO Field has sure aged well. Stepping out onto field level yesterday, it was hard to imagine the humble beginnings of the original stadium. Under the canopy, and with a booming new sound system ringing through the stadium, it looks and feels significantly bigger.
Tomorrow, BMO Field 3.0 will open to the public for the first time, and the stadium's capabilities will be demonstrated in their full glory. More than 30,000 supporters are expected for the match, which is likely to sell out if it has not already.
However, the new stadium isn't the only thing Toronto FC will be looking to show off in their home opener. In many ways, a stadium is only as good as its tenant, and the club is determined to show that they have made strides since they last set foot on the grass at BMO Field.
"I hope what the city and the fans are seeing is a different team," said Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney at training yesterday. "Last year was an exciting team and we scored goals and that was interesting, but it was a frustrating team too because we were giving away goals."
This year's side has made defending a priority, and benefits are already being reaped. Through their first eight games of the season, Toronto FC is the best defensive side in Major League Soccer, allowing just seven goals.
Vanney says defensive solidity is the cornerstone for any MLS side that wants a chance to win. He hopes that fans are able to see this team as a group that is able to lock down a 1-0 match. They are a team that no longer needs to score 4 or 5 goals against the opposition, although he wouldn't mind doing that as well.
"I think probably in most leagues around the world the teams that defend well, Atletico Madrid is a good example, and defend collectively have a great foundation to do special things," says Vanney. "We still have all the attacking power that we had last year, but are really defending collectively as a group."
Toronto FC wants to make a good impression on their home fans tomorrow, but captain Michael Bradley says they aren't weighed down by expectations. At the end of the day, it is results that will keep the supporters satisfied.
"Ultimately, people want to see us win," said Bradley. "People want to see a team step on the field and compete and play in a way that makes them proud and makes them feel a part of it."
Like the field they will be playing on, however, construction on Toronto FC is far from complete. While the team is happy with their season-opening road trip, they know that they have plenty of work to do before they reach the end product.
"We will get better at things, we will get sharper, things will get tightened up," said Vanney. "Kind of similar to the stadium,they have the foundation, everything's here. It is now buttoning up the final things and they'll be doing that for weeks."
Like the stadium, Toronto FC is continuing to grow. So far this season, the club has played the most consistent and well-rounded brand of soccer in club history. But coming home will present a new set of challenges, and the team is looking to continue to prove itself.