It's been a whirlwind 2016 season so far for Toronto FC, so much so that it seems incredible that it is only halfway done. The first act of the club's tenth season has already seen enough controversy, intrigue and plot twists for an entire year.
With Toronto FC playing their 17th game of the season on Saturday, a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire, this signals the halfway point of their season. Currently, they sit in 5th place in the MLS Eastern Conference with a record of 6 wins 6 losses and 5 draws. They have scored 19 goals, and conceded 19 as well.
Here is a look at the biggest storylines from this season thus far:
1. Toronto FC's Fab Four Additions, And Their Impact
Gaps in the Toronto lineup mean that GM Tim Bezbatchenko didn't exactly hit a home run in the transfer market this summer, but he came pretty darn close. Bez made four key additions this offseason for Toronto, and all of them have delivered as promised through the first half of the 2016 season.
Clint Irwin has done an incredible job in goal, and looks like he could be a cornerstone for this franchise for many years still to come. He has been a key part of a new-look Toronto backline that also features Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour, two other summer adds. Moor has been the backline leader Toronto has been missing since Steven Caldwell retired. Beitashour has been a consistent performer in Toronto's most inconsistent position last season, right back.
Will Johnson, meanwhile, has been a heart and soul player in the Toronto midfield. He runs for the full 90 minutes, and his attitude on and off the pitch has clearly been infectious within the group.
2. A Successful Season Opening Roadtrip
Toronto FC's tenth season began with a bang when they beat the defending supporting shield champions, the New York Red Bulls, in their own building 2-0. That began what was a successful season-opening eight game road trip, as renovations were completed to BMO Field for the second straight year.
The club collected 11 points on the road, and likely could have had more if not for some difficult circumstances (more on that later). The highest point of the trip came when Toronto FC took down the Montreal Impact 2-0 at Saputo Stadium. It was a small measure of revenge for the Impact eliminating Toronto from last year's playoffs.
3. The Home Opener Hangover
Things started on an incredible note at the new look BMO Field on May 7, when Toronto FC beat FC Dallas 1-0 during one of the best nights in franchise history. After that, however, things went a little bit sideways. Toronto FC had trouble breaking teams apart and failed to win its next three home games during the worst stretch of the season to date.
If there is anything to be concerned about this season for Toronto, it has been the home form. The club has 3 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss at BMO Field, and would be in a much better place if they had turned some of those draws into wins.
There is hope on the horizon, however, and in good time as the most home-heavy part of Toronto FC's season is set to begin. Toronto has two wins and a draw in their last three home games.
4. A Well-Timed Championship
Right in the midst of a four-game winless streak, Toronto FC were handed what looked to be yet another burden: the Canadian Championship. The team had talked at length about the importance of winning the trophy this year, but with a number of players injured or away, and the team in bad form, it didn't look likely.
That all changed when a young Toronto FC squad crushed the Montreal Impact 4-2 at BMO Field, including a brace from Jordan Hamilton in his first ever MLS start. From there, Toronto didn't look back, cruising by the Impact before taking a 1-0 lead against the Whitecaps in the final.
However, Vancouver jumped out to a 2-0 lead at BC Place, and looked to have won their second straight Canadian Championship. That's when, in the dying seconds, Will Johnson scored a brilliant volley before flying through the air like Bobby Orr and breaking his leg. It was an iconic moment in Toronto FC history, and handed them their fifth Voyageurs Cup.
It is no secret that the trophy win gave Toronto FC a much-needed confidence boost, they haven't lost since. It was a much-needed distraction from difficult times in MLS play, not to mention an important accomplishment for the club.
5. Bad breaks and bad calls
Toronto FC has had to deal with a lot outside of their control this season, and it's why many are willing to give them a pass for what has been a mediocre MLS season thus far. For starters, the team has had to deal with a lot of injuries and absences.
Jozy Altidore has been injured twice already, and is only just now getting back into the lineup. Michael Bradley captained the United States at the Copa America, before suffering an injury himself. Clint Irwin hurt his quad, Johnson broke his leg, Benoit Cheyrou missed significant time and Sebastian Giovinco hurt his adductor.
The team has also had to overcome some frustratingly poor calls, sadly expected in MLS, but more frequent this season than usual. There was the David Villa missed handball against NYCFC, The Brad Davis push on Justin Morrow against Sporting KC, the phantom Cheyrou red card against the Colorado Rapids. More recently, the last minute penalty that stole a point against Orlando City SC, and the one that wasn't called earlier in the match.
Toronto FC has sure had to go through a lot of adversity so far this season. For the most part, they have overcome it, which bodes will for the second half.