A third trophy of 2017 would mark an unprecedented accomplishment — making this year’s TFC the best squad MLS has seen
TORONTO — Toronto FC, for all its star power, for all its ambition, remains without a league title. The club is looking to mend that wrong, first and foremost, when the Seattle Sounders visit for Saturday’s MLS Cup final.
“It’s what this city has been dreaming of,” Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio said. “It’s what this club has been dreaming of.”
But if TFC puts that elusive star above its crest, the conversation should spread beyond talk of an overdue MLS crown. If anything, it would be a disservice to Toronto’s body of work in 2017 to simply lump this side in with the 21 past league champions.
No, this TFC team deserves to stand alone as the greatest in MLS history.
It wouldn’t even be that debatable, frankly. Toronto already managed to win the Supporters’ Shield in emphatic style, compiling the most points and the largest margin of victory in league history. While TFC would become just the seventh team to follow the Shield with an MLS Cup triumph, none of the Reds’ predecessors also managed to win the domestic cup — which Toronto did by claiming the Canadian Championship in June.
It makes for an unmatched resume — assuming, that is, TFC can get the job done at BMO Field.
“It’s been an amazing season so far, and to cap it off with MLS Cup would mean the world to us,” defender Drew Moor said. “The Supporters’ Shield is great — it’s not what teams ultimately want to win. The Canadian Championship is great, a U.S. Open Cup is great — we play in this league to win MLS Cup.”
Although Toronto has a ways to go before matching the sustained dynasties of D.C. United in the late ’90s and the LA Galaxy from earlier this decade, Sebastian Giovinco and Co. are on the verge putting a together a single season like no other.
While some may bemoan the lack of continental success, it’s not like MLS history is packed with success stories that trump Toronto in that department. In fact, the only two MLS teams that did finish atop CONCACAF (D.C. in 1998, LA in 2000) failed to win any other titles during those seasons. Plus TFC didn’t even get a shot at the CONCACAF Champions League in 2017, with its participation pushed to next spring by a schedule shift.
And yes, Toronto only had to get past two teams — and one MLS side — to win the Canadian Championship. That represents a lesser challenge than the one stateside teams deal with in the U.S. Open Cup. But you can only play the games in front of you, and TFC’s four-match path was just one short of what’s required to win the Open Cup anyway.
So don’t dismiss the weight of the domestic treble. TFC began this season with the opportunity to lift a trio of trophies, and club can make it three-for-three Saturday. It’s a possibility that looms over the Toronto locker room, even if the big picture has drifted into the background.
“It’s been something we talked about at the beginning of the year,” coach Greg Vanney said. “But as we talked about that we always talked about what does it take to actually do those things, and what is that process and are we all committed to the daily work it takes to do those types of things?”
Moor added: “We would love to be the first team to win a treble, and we’ve put ourselves in pretty good position, but we’re not thinking about what we did previously this year. We know we’re coming off a very good regular season and have found a way in the playoffs to get ourselves back to MLS Cup.”
Should TFC clear that final hurdle, this team would be a fitting symbol for the modern MLS era. First off, Toronto’s successful introduction as an MLS market back in 2007 helped pave the road for the rapid expansion the league now relishes. Perhaps no team has better mastered the league’s modern roster rules, in which splashing the cash on U.S. internationals and European stars must be balanced by savvy veteran signings and homegrown talent.
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“We’ve talked about that all week,” captain Michael Bradley said. “Over the course of your career, to find teams and groups of guys where things are different and special, that’s so unique. We feel like we have that here.
“We get one of our rewards tomorrow, which is the opportunity to step on the field in our stadium in our city and play in a final and play for the chance to hold up a trophy.”
That, and the chance to entrench an unprecedented place in MLS lore.