Looking back, Toronto FC fans are more likely to remember the good times at BMO Field. After all, last season was a historic one for the stadium, having just undergone a spectacular two-year, $120-million facelift. Attendance records were set in the stands, while on the field the team made its first MLS Cup final.
The stadium hosted unforgettable moments, like Benoit Cheyrou’s headed goal in extra time of the Eastern Conference final to beat the Montreal Impact. During the playoffs it was packed, loud and passionate like never before. Those are the memories fresh in fans’ minds.
It is easy to forget, however, that BMO Field is where Toronto lost the Supporters’ Shield in 2016. Starting with tomorrow’s home opener, the club has to be better at home in 2017 if they want to be crowned as the league’s best regular season team.
The fact that TFC were inside the league’s top five in 2016 was due to their road results, which were second best in MLS. Their home record of eight wins, six draws and three losses was worse than nine other teams. More visitors left BMO Field with points in hand than didn’t, which doesn’t exactly make it an intimidating place to play.
Since 2011, when the league moved to a 34-game schedule, Supporters’ Shield winners have averaged 63 points. That means Toronto should be aiming for about 38 points at home and 25 away. TFC only managed 30 home points in 2016.
How can they improve on that total this year? Looking at the nine games they drew or lost last season, there are a few noticeable trends.
The most pressing problem is allowing the visiting team to score early goals. Toronto only managed to come from behind once in six attempts at home last year, and that came against the last-place Chicago Fire in the final game of the regular season.
Once the opposing team had scored a goal, they could shift their focus to defending and force Toronto to create their own openings. TFC struggled to do this, even when they had a man advantage. Two of Toronto’s three home losses came after their opponent had a player sent off, and therefore played deep defensively.
To curb this inability to break down stingy opponents, Toronto brought in attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez. The hope is that his attacking creativity and passing can lead to more chances for the team.
Vazquez has already managed to help in this regard once this season in the last match in Vancouver. After Brek Shea was sent off and Vancouver retreated defensively, Vazquez scored a late goal and played a key pass on Toronto’s second to earn the club a 2-0 victory.
Toronto will need more performances like that from Vazquez and his teammates at home if they want to improve their BMO Field point total. Adding eight or so points to last year’s tally won’t be easy, but fixing the main issue is achievable.
While tomorrow’s home opener at BMO Field will bring with it a festive atmosphere, the team on the field needs to get down to business right away. Too many opponents left the stadium with points last year, and that has to change.