Remember the glory days of 2006? The world’s most popular sport had a home in Toronto, season tickets sold out, songs were scripted, road trips to driving distance away game destinations planned, TFC ‘til I die proclaimed. Then losing happened. For seven straight seasons; not a single finish higher than 11th, and never a winning record. The once dearly embraced franchise was a disaster on the pitch and off, a revolving door for managers that invented new ways to disappoint as every failed promise of a season wore on.
Then came the 2013-2014 offseason, a beam of hope emerging after years of wasted DP money, questionable contracts, amateur leadership from the top down and a restless fanbase looking for the city’s next bandwagon to hop on. And that’s where we find ourselves now, with that wagon full-steam ahead as March 15’s season opener away to Seattle looms. Though a promising offseason should be taken at extreme caution (just ask the Jays), here’s why you might want to hop aboard as Toronto FC enters year eight…
It’s a bloody big deal.
Surely you’re aware of what we mean without us having to spell it out. Unless you really are new to this team, in which case we will anyway: Jermaine Defoe. That’s right, Toronto is finally set to welcome a world-class striker (who is still competing for a spot on England’s roster ahead of this year’s World Cup) to BMO Field. At 31 years old, Defoe still has 2-3 years of top quality production left. At $150,000 a week, he better. He’s the type of finisher Toronto FC have lacked pretty much since they joined the league with enough workrate to not completely be rendered useless when receiving expectedly mediocre service from the midfield… at least by his standards.
A United States international with professional experience in the Netherlands, Germany, England and Italy, where he racked up 41 appearances for Champions League-bound Roma, jumping ship and returning to the MLS is quite the bloody big deal as well. A box-to-box midfielder with consistent international experience is a rare commodity – especially at the prime of their career (Bradley’s only 26).
Welcome back, old friend.
Scarborough native Dwayne De Rosario returns to the city after three seasons at DC United, the first of which he was awarded league MVP honours the year after ditching Toronto FC. He netted 27 goals for the Reds during that first two-year spell at his hometown club and was somewhat of an icon at the club – not necessarily a major accomplishment for a team that’s achieved so little, but sentimental nonetheless. He returns as a 35-year-old veteran presence with the odd bit of magic still left in his boots.
In Leiweke we trust.
Yes, even top-level executives merit optimism. Tim Leiweke was brought in as President and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, making Toronto FC the prime focus of his spend-all strategy. So far, so good. With a proven track record that includes considerable success for the LA Kings, Lakers and Galaxy during his tenure as head of Anschutz Entertainment (which owns the previously mentioned teams), Leiweke promised TFC fans a playoff appearance shortly after arriving and has splashed the cash to deliver. He’s so committed to making this work that we wouldn’t be surprised to see him sign himself to a contract and take the field if things don’t immediately take shape for the club.
The atmosphere at BMO Field simply can’t be rivaled by what you’d experience at the ACC or Rogers Centre. At least that’s how it used to be. But consider this: Since you’re pretty much on the bandwagon after reading up to this point, you can guarantee tens of thousands of other Torontonians are as well. Toronto FC’s been notorious for selling a significant part of their season tickets, and this year will likely be the same… despite apparent fan boycotts following the disaster that was last season. So learn the songs, grab a few pints pre-match, don your reddest of red and cheer extra loud against the Impact and Whitecaps this year.
Live Your Notable Life | #LYNL