It’s August 24th, and Toronto FC is the top team in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. If that doesn’t mean something to you, then consider yourself lucky, you’ve missed the nine years of brutal soccer that led up to this point.
The fact that it’s August is relevant for two different reasons. The first being that this is by far the latest that Toronto FC has been this high in the standings. The second, which puts everything into context, is that it’s still only August, and it will be October when Toronto FC’s season is truly judged.
Tonight’s 2-1 victory over Orlando City SC wasn’t a finish line for Toronto FC, they haven’t accomplished anything yet. They have passed all of their opponents, at least the ones in their heat, but there is plenty of race left to run. But it’s now fair to say they have the inside lane.
It’s not just that Toronto FC has the easiest schedule of any team down the final stretch of the MLS season, it’s also how it is being handled. It doesn’t seem to matter whether Toronto is at home or on the road at this point they are the most difficult team to beat in the league at the moment.
A big part of that is the club’s offence, which was once again good enough to get them a result today. When Toronto FC has stalled this season, it has been because they haven’t been scoring. For most of the season, Sebastian Giovinco was the only player who could score consistently, and when he stopped scoring the club stumbled.
Now Jozy Altidore has four goals in four games, including the winner of tonight’s match. His well-timed substitution changed the game and instantly put a stop to Orlando’s momentum. Tosaint Ricketts’ speed, meanwhile, continues to be a huge asset as he scored his second goal of the season tonight.
Giovinco remained the architect, setting up both goals and bringing his assist tally on the season to 13, second best in the league. Particularly impressive tonight was his quick and accurate throw in, which gave Ricketts a breakaway and the opening goal.
Toronto’s historic night, however, was almost ruined by a figure from their past. Former goalkeeper Joe Bendik made a couple of incredible saves towards the end of the first half and looked to have earned Orlando a point.
His hard work would all be for nought, however, when Altidore rounded him in the 86th minute and gave Toronto the win. Altidore’s goal, for the record, appeared to be offside. But after how things went last time Toronto visited the Citrus Bowl, they won’t mind the soccer gods paying them back.
If there was one concern about tonight’s performance, it was that Toronto’s backline once again looked shaky. They only conceded three goals in three games on this road trip. But it could have been more if the opposition was clinical, and Alex Bono wasn’t so good in goal. He made a big save early again in this match.
To be fair, however, tonight’s backline was fairly makeshift from Toronto FC, as they rested both fullbacks. Instead, it was Marky Delgado who played wide defence, which must have given Toronto FC fans some nasty flashbacks to last season.
The deja vu ends there, however, as with this win the club continues to enter uncharted territory in their tenth season of existence. If tonight was an indication, Toronto FC might just make some more history before the season is over.
If all goes to plan, August 24th and the top spot in the Eastern Conference is just the beginning. The Supporters Shield is the next target, and it is now only two points away.