Toronto FC will rightly feel like they have left points behind so far during this road trip. In Salt Lake, a missed penalty cost them two points, while blowing a late lead in Philadelphia saw them cough up two more.
At this point in the season, dropping points like this is far from a disaster. In fact, in general, a draw is a good result on the road in MLS especially under the circumstances Toronto has faced so far. But TFC don’t want to be average this year, they have said from the start of the season that they want to be a contender.
Their season opening road trip ends today with an all-Canadian match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. If they want to see that it ends successfully, they need all three points. Not a draw, certainly not a loss, only a win will do if this teams wants to make an early statement.
For the average MLS team, a draw on the road can be considered a good result. In fact, looking at the past six seasons (when the league switched to a 34 game schedule), visiting teams average just under a point per game in the regular season. Getting a point per game on the road, combined with solid play at home, will earn a playoff spot.
However, to finish in one of the top 5 spots during an MLS regular season, a team needs to pick up an average of 1.3 points per game on the road. That’s the pace that Toronto FC needs to aim for on the road to keep up with the league’s best, and ultimately land a Supporters’ Shield.
A win today and Toronto FC will be comfortably above the average road performance of an elite MLS team. Thus the road trip can be considered a success. It is too early to worry about the statistical pace of TFC, but it is worth it to be able to statistically define road success in MLS. Going forward, Toronto FC’s deviation from 1.3 road points per game is worth watching.
This game, of course, is important for more than just stockpiling a few more road points early in the season. It is the last game before Toronto FC returns home to BMO Field for the first time since the MLS Cup final. Picking up some momentum going into that home opener is crucial. There will be all kinds of expectation and emotion in that game, seeing as it is the first time Toronto FC has returned home since the MLS Cup final.
Finally, today’s game gives Toronto FC a big chance to continue positively grow their reputation with Canadians. The match will be broadcast nationally on CTV, meaning that it will likely find its way into a few more living rooms than usual. Putting in a big performance in front of that national audience could go a long way towards continuing the moment the TFC built with their playoff run last season.
That’s why today’s game, while unlikely to be particularly memorable in the grand scheme of things, could go a long way towards kick starting this season for Toronto FC. Only a win, however, would truly allow that to be accomplished.