I was there, at BMO Field, on December 10, 2016. It’s a night burned into my subconscious — I can still feel the bitter cold, I can still feel the “We’re the favourites, this will be a cake-walk” expectation quickly coagulating into bitter disappointment. I can plug myself right back into the moments after the final whistle, as the stands emptied en masse — no high-fives, no “nice to meet you”s.
Leaving our fortress on the lake in the care of the Sounders faithful, MLS executives, and the media, hearing their cheers and jubilation as we packed into the tunnel or straddled streetcar tracks, our forlorn faces sickly lit by the stadium lights, still at full blast. All walking silently, save for the few who couldn’t contain their rage-boners, kicking over trash cans or punching Presto Card machines. To put it mildly, it was a decidedly “un-fun” experience.
I was there, at BMO field, on April 17, 2018. And while this home leg loss is certainly a bitter pill to swallow, it felt... different. It was missing a certain element, familiar to long time supporters, but thankfully becoming more and more alien to the TFC experience — I can’t remember who said it in the comments, and I do think it was with respect to the B/C-team loss to Colorado last Saturday, but I like the analogy so I’m going to use it: TFC Stockholm Syndrome.
That loss in 2016 felt very old-school TFC, especially when you lump in our mob-mentality reactions on the day. We had grown to accept failure, and not even begrudgingly so; we owned that failure. We owned up to our laughingstock status, it could even be argued that we started to like it, it became our badge of misplaced honour. It’s all very Toronto, after all, to passionately follow a sports team of perennial underachievers.
That loss in 2016 was also the turning point for our club. From the top down, TFC used that pain and disappointment as fuel, and as we all know, it worked like gangbusters. We went on a tear in MLS that broke record books, leading to win after win and trophies galore. More than a year of sustained, fever-dream magic.
We hit a little snag last night.
I’m not going to sugar-coat the result, but I’m also not going to go all scorched earth either. No sour grapes or fanning the flames here. It’s only halftime.
Let’s consider the positives — no suspensions. While it can (and should) be argued that our boys did play more conservatively on defence to avoid any/all fouls (especially Michael Bradley in my opinion), going into Leg 2 with all our weapons is still an advantage, more so with the away goals we conceded last night.
Maybe our lads read too much of their own press. Maybe the occasion was simply too big for them. Perhaps the weather, traditionally our best friend in this tournament, cashed in our IOUs. It could very well be all my fault, after losing to Chivas in my pre-game superstition FIFA 18 session.
The way I see it, last night was the 2016 MLS Cup Final Redux, featuring a very different Toronto side. A seasoned Toronto side with more than 12 months of huge games under their belt. The feeling, after leaving the match, was not at all the doom and gloom of 2016. It wasn’t fun, mind you, but this team has made it safe to believe, and I believe the hell out of this team. This is only halftime, after all, and if Chivas can score two away goals, so can we.
After that night in December, we had to wait an entire year for the chance at redemption. flash forward to 2018, and we only need to wait a week.
Chivas had a game plan (stay organized, high press the wings to take Toronto out of comfort zone) and executed. Simple as.— Duane Rollins (@24thminute) April 18, 2018
TFC can turn it around (esp to get to penalties), but it’s going to be a long week. Most frustrating night at BMO since 2016 final.
I’m going to add something my friend Gavin wrote, after watching the match in the wee hours of the morning across the pond in England:
“How far we’ve come in such a short time. People are bummed out at taking a 2-1 deficit to Mexico for the Champions League Final ... Seriously! Who thought we’d be upset with that 2-3 years ago? Incredible turnaround from what was an empty stadium when I first went for $20 from a scalper. 30000 sold yesterday. Unbelievable. And we haven’t even started yet.”
So, with it all in mind, this week’s discussion question is this:
What’s your takeaway from last night?
Let us know in magic-land, aka the comments.
THIS WEEK’S PLAYLIST:
There have been a ton of song suggestions around WTR-Land this past week ... many not in the comments on my column, but alas, we’re all friends here. (Editor’s note: Hehe. - C)
I love suggestions. They only make these playlists better, and it’s fun getting to know everyone’s tastes.