It was clear from the warmups that there was going to be a special atmosphere at BMO Field tonight. But it was during the national anthem that the importance of the occasion really became clear. 30,025 Toronto FC supporters stood in full voice and belted out the Canadian national anthem, which rang throughout the stadium.
It was a song that fans had been waiting patiently for two months to sing, as BMO Field underwent renovations. Toronto FC players and staff noticed, and it set the tone for a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas in their home opener. It was also the first taste of the atmosphere at the new-look BMO Field.
The players clearly fed off of the support, and could have won the match handily if it was not for some poor finishing. Instead, they would have to do with just a single goal, courtesy of rookie Tsubasa Endoh. It was his first Major League Soccer goal, and quite a special occasion to make it happen. The rookie's contribution secured a big three points for the home side.
"It's a good win, it's an important win for us," said head coach Greg Vanney after the match. "We did it again in a fashion where I just don't think that [in the past] we wouldn't have held on and won the game like that."
More than just on the scoresheet, Endoh was everywhere tonight. The rookie had far and away his best performance with the club, combining well with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to form an incredibly dangerous front three for Toronto. They threatened the FC Dallas backline all night long.
"With Seba and Jozy they require so much attention that gaps open up for [Endoh] to run through," said Vanney. "He has that capacity and the legs to get through."
Even if it didn't yield the results, it was Toronto's best attacking display of the season. Toronto FC looked strong and confident on the ball and was able to pick apart the FC Dallas defence on more than one occasion. They fired 17 shots on goal, many of which were narrow misses.
Altidore was on the end of many of those chances but just can't seem to buy a goal to get his 2016 season up and running. It is hard to fault the American, however, as he did everything else right on the day and his hold up play has been central to what Toronto FC has accomplished so far this season.
"I'm just trying to do what the coach asks me to do, and I feel like I'm doing that aside from getting the goals," said Altidore. "But I know they'll come. The most important thing is another three points and that we move up the table."
This wasn't just any three points, however, there was a special buzz around today's match. It was a big game atmosphere at BMO Field tonight, and one that likely put plenty of pressure on the home side.
Toronto FC has rarely dealt well with big game situations in club history. Take last year's home opener, for example, where the club fell flat and was unable to live up to the atmosphere. Or that terrible night in Montreal, which hardly deserves to be in the same breath as tonight's performance.
Instead, the 2016 Toronto FC home opener will be remembered as a match that never really looked in doubt for Toronto FC after the took the lead. The club comprehensively shut down FC Dallas, allowing only one glaring scoring chance.
There is a long road ahead for Toronto FC, including 16 more home games that all count for the same amount of points as tonight's. But the team has taken a confident first step down that road, and as of right now it sure looks like it could lead somewhere.