If it wasn’t established already, this past Saturday confirmed it: Toronto FC has learned how to win at home. Their 4-1 win over the New England Revolution was their fifth straight at BMO Field, and they were perfect through a four-game homestand.
Having only hosted one loss in all competitions this season, BMO Field can once again be considered a fortress. However, Toronto FC will be forced to leave its confines this week, and see if they can replicate their strong form on the road. The three game road trip will be their second longest of the season.
While in Major League Soccer a club’s home form determines whether or not they are a playoff team, it is how they do away from home that can truly make them elite. Toronto FC fancy themselves a big club, and for the first time this season, they look the part. Now they have a chance to prove it.
This year especially, playing well away from home can be a big difference maker. Because, with the exception of New York City FC, nobody in this league knows how. Toronto FC, who has three wins in 12 away matches, has the second-best road record in the Eastern Conference. Five teams in MLS have yet to win away from home, while five others have done it just once.
Toronto FC’s road record of three wins, three draws, and six losses hasn’t necessarily reflected their quality of play. Only one of those games, a 3-0 drubbing to the New York Red Bulls, has seen them lose by more than one goal. A call here and there, or a bit of luck, and they would certainly have more than 12 road points this season.
In the playoffs, however, which are quickly approaching, good road performances don’t matter. It is the result that does. Toronto FC will want to make sure they pick up as many of those results as possible on the road this month. If nothing else, just so they know that they can do it when it is needed come the postseason.
Road results may be defining in this year’s players, because teams have been so reliant on their home form. It would be a major feather in Toronto FC’s cap if they can figure it out now.
Toronto FC will be taking some familiar faces on this road trip, those that having been missing for some time. Michael Bradley made his return to the starting lineup this past weekend, but could soon be joined by midfield partner Will Johnson. Benoit Cheyrou is also slated to make his return at some point during this trip.
What will be equally important is these players returning to 90 minute form. Bradley still has some rust to shake off, while Jozy Altidore has yet to make a start since returning from a hamstring injury.
In Houston on Saturday, then in Orlando and Philadelphia, Toronto FC will get the chance to take the next step as a team. They have many more to go, but this one would be big.