The story of the 2019 Toronto FC has not been one told in a straight line, but with only one match left to play, Sunday should provide us with a clearer outline of the path that they’ll need to take in order to reach the finish line.
TFC currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, which is good enough for a road fixture in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. In order to turn that road date into a home one, the Reds would have to leapfrog two teams — DC United and New York Red Bulls — to land in fourth place.
So, ahead of Sunday’s Decision Day, here are some of the crucial numbers to watch for TFC.
HOW TO GET HOME
The task ahead of Toronto is straightforward, if not simple. They will need to beat their old rivals the Columbus Crew and hope that neither DC United nor New York Red Bulls win their final match of the season.
If Toronto doesn’t get all three points, then they won’t open the first round at home; if either team they’re trailing in the standings picks up a win, the outcome will be the same.
If Toronto wins and DC draws, then they will be tied on points and wins (with identical records) but TFC’s goal differential would be at least 1 better, thus giving them the final home playoff berth.
SPILLS AND TRILLS
Columbus Crew have been one of Toronto FC’s earliest and fiercest rivals in MLS. From thousands of TFC supporters travelling to Columbus to the manufactured Trillium Cup — and keepers scoring injury-time goals inbetween — the history between these two clubs is vast.
But in the early years, it was rarely marked with success for the Reds.
Toronto managed to win just TWO of their first 19 meetings with the Crew, but since 2014 (the Bradley era), they’ve dropped just FOUR of 17 — including a unbelievable Eastern Conference Final tie which paved the way for Toronto’s first league championship.
Toronto has managed to piece together a nine-match unbeaten run in league play. It may seem a bit unsatisfying as many of those matches were winable-draws, but they’ve managed to avoid a loss in nine for only the second time in club history.
Toronto won’t get a chance to equal the club mark of 11 matches in a season which was set in the aforementioned championship run of 2017 — an incredible run of 8 wins and 3 draws.
A HEAD OF THE REST
When Omar Gonzalez headed home the match-saving goal in Chicago on the weekend, he became the 17th different Red to score for the club this season: a new team record.
Toronto has a half-dozen scorers with a handful of goals this year, but their record-17 shows the depth to their scoring. It’s also worth noting that they may not have a 13+ goal scorer for the first time in five seasons.
FILLING THE NETS
If Toronto manage to get their tails wagging early on Sunday, they have an outside shot at having the second highest goal scoring season in club history. A three-goal output would tie last season’s total of 59.
FILLING THE NETS - PART 2
On the other side of the ledger, keeping the sheets clean has also been a well-documented challenge for the club this season.
If Columbus finds the net on Sunday, it will mark the second-lowest total of team clean sheets in the club’s history — a dubious mark set just last season.
CARRYING THE WEIGHT
Nick DeLeon should see minutes on Sunday, and if he does, he’ll become just the 7th Red (6th outfield player) to log 32 or more of the club’s league matches in a season.