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Toronto FC’s win over Columbus Crew the same but so, so different

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The Reds produced exactly the same comeback in 2013, but so much has changed since then.

MLS: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

For the more dedicated Toronto FC supporters, Wednesday’s miraculous victory in Columbus might have seemed eerily familiar. In 2013, during the club’s dark age, Toronto beat the Crew in similar fashion, a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 win.

That game took place on a stormy day at BMO Field in July of that year. Dominic Oduro, because who else, scored in the first half to give Columbus the lead. Toronto never looked like they would climb back in it until an equalizer in the dying minutes from a young Jonathan Osorio. Moments later, Andrew Wiedeman slid in to give TFC an unlikely victory.

The loyal group of fans who had stuck it out through the horrible conditions celebrated deliriously. It was a rare moment of jubilation in an otherwise bleak 2013 season, perhaps the lowest point in club history. It might have been one of the most memorable victories in the team’s first nine years in MLS.

That win was one of just six TFC managed during the 2013 season, a mark that they had not surpassed in either of the previous two years. This year’s 2-1 win against Columbus was a club record fifth win in a row. The games themselves were almost identical, but the context around them is completely different.

The original 2-1 come-from-behind win against Columbus was so unexpected because that edition of Toronto FC always seemed to find a way to lose. This year’s Toronto FC can’t seem to stop winning, even when they have no business doing so.

“That was by no means perfect from our side,” Greg Vanney said after Wednesday’s match. “But again, this group has a lot of character, they just kept competing, they stuck with it.”

The 2013 Toronto FC squad was likely among the weakest the team has ever fielded. Only two players in the 18 that day remain with Toronto FC, in Canadian pair Jonathan Osorio and Ashtone Morgan. Only three other players are still in the league: Matias Laba, Stefan Frei and Joe Bendik.

MLS: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Four years later, Vanney is making the claim - one that is probably accurate - that his squad is the deepest MLS has ever seen. It is certainly the best squad in club history, as proven by back-to-back big results despite the absence of key players and heavy travel.

In every position this season, with the possible exception of right full-back, Toronto has shown that they have more than capable replacements. In some positions, such as in central midfield and defence, Toronto is several players deep.

“We feel like we have the best team in the league,” said Michael Bradley after beating the Sounders last week. “Not just 1 to 11 but 12 and on, but obviously that gets put to the test at different times. It is up to us to prove that.”

Whereas 2013’s miraculous victory was a lucky one-off, this year’s team keeps finding ways to win. This time it was an inspired performance from a pair of substitutes, Raheem Edwards and Tosaint Ricketts, that earned the three points.

Other wins this year have come from taking advantage of an opponent’s error (Brek Shea’s red card against Vancouver), outclassing visitors to BMO Field (Houston and Chicago), goalkeeping (Bono vs. Orlando) and a gritty road performance (Seattle).

MLS: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Toronto FC were a laughing stock. It is incredible how far they have come since then, with Tim Bezbatchenko and Co. building this team from the ground up. Sure, he had a lot of help from an MLSE group with deep pockets, but he has spent their money wisely.

Toronto fans can now look back at that 2-1 victory in 2013 and laugh. It was a different time - a different team, really. This year’s carbon-copy victory, while almost every bit as epic, is unlikely to live as long in the memory.

The club has bigger aspirations now that cannot truly be accomplished until December. The players feel like they are on the right path, but know that it is too early to rest on their recent success.

“We feel good about the direction that we are headed,” said Bradley after the Columbus win. “We’re also not satisfied. With every win, it leaves us wanting more. We are determined to keep ourselves going in the right direction and determined to keep improving.”