It was in Portland that Toronto FC players finally started getting homesick. For the past two months, Michael Bradley and his teammates have been on an eight-game road trip to start the season. The trip was successful by all accounts, but the team are excited to finally be returning home.
"This [home opener] comes at a good time," said Bradley at training on Thursday. "Guys are motivated and excited and are ready to step on the field on Saturday."
The field that they will be stepping on has received a major facelift. The reason that Toronto FC was forced to play their first eight games of the season on the road was due to construction. BMO Field, their home stadium, was undergoing the second phase of $150 million renovations.
Last year, the lakeshore stadium added 8,400 thousand seats to accommodate the club's growing fan base. This year's additions were more aesthetic: adding a canopy over the east, west and south ends of the stadium.
Toronto FC players got a chance to look at the renovations for the first time on Thursday when they trained there for the first time. They were impressed, to say the least.
"It feels like a whole new stadium," said Bradley. "Obviously, last year when we got back here we were excited. The additions certainly made it feel like a nicer stadium. When you walk out there now it feels like a brand new stadium."
There's no doubt that the stadium is a sight to behold. Stepping out onto the pitch for the first time it is hard to visualise the humble beginnings of BMO Field's original design. More than 30,000 fans are expected to pack the stadium today. At the time of writing, only standing room only tickets are still available.
Head coach Greg Vanney is excited to see what the stadium's new features can add to the atmosphere. The new canopy roof isn't only designed to keep fans dry, it is also meant to keep crowd noise in the stadium.
"That's going to be amazing," said Vanney. "The crowd comes and they make so much noise and they are banging the drums and they're singing and now I just think it's going to reverberate back and through the stands."
During the first eight games of the season, Jonathan Osorio saw some impressive stadiums. The Toronto FC midfielder counts Red Bull Arena, where the club played their season opener and Children's Mercy Park in Kansas as his favourites.
"But I like this one better," Osorio said of BMO Field, adding that it feels like home.
Osorio is also excited to see what the supporters can do with their new stage. He has no idea how loud BMO Field is going to be today, but he is looking forward to finding out.
For Toronto FC, today is just one of 17 home games they will play this season. But it is important that they get off on a good foot. BMO Field will only ever be as impressive as the team that plays in it, and Toronto FC has some winning to do to make that happen.