Footage from Toronto FC’s first ever home game in MLS in 2007.
Anyone who saw footage of the MLS’ newest club, the Seattle Sounders, open their campaign against New York Red Bulls could not help but make comparisons with the last team prior to them to have joined the league, dearest Toronto FC.
The Candian club marked their entry in 2007 with sold out stadiums, in fact every home game in MLS has been a sell out, and hugely passionate fans. I mentioned a little while ago when penning my reason for aligning myself with Toronto, how I found it strange to be so loyal to a team with no history (other than bearing your town’s name) but strangely endearing at the same time. The fact they adapted numerous English chants and featured ex-Premiership players such as Rohan Ricketts was just a bonus.
Fast forward two seasons and it was a similar story in Seattle. Their opening game was a hugely anticipated affair with the headline grabbing signing of ex-Arsenal man Freddie Ljunberg catching people’s attention but it was a different Freddie, young Columbian striker Freddy Montero, who was cuasing ripples of excitement.
The state had recently lost it’s basketball franchise to Oklahoma and from listening to experts like the BBC’s Sean Wheelock, as well as reading interviews with club owner and comedian Drew Carey, this massively worked in the Sounders favour to immediately fill the sporting void created by the departed dunkers. Seattle always had a side in the USL (league below MLS) but this fan support was not a long-standing one but rather a group of people riding a wave of intrigue mixed with excitement and just a tinge of hope that the team would give them a sporting reason to be proud again.
Sure enough the beat last year’s MLS finalists New York in the opener with Montero taking the starring role. The Stadium was packed with people waving green scarves vociferously and in the background their multi-millionaire celebrity owner smiled from ear to ear. They had arrived. Toronto also upset the odds in the opening week by defeating Kansas City Wizards away from home 3-2.
Week two and the Seattle bandwagon continues with another home win, this time over Real Salt Lake, while Toronto faced another tricky away tie at Columbus Crew but came away with a point despite a poor penalty being awarded against them, but admittedly thanks to a fortunate own goal late on.
Week three and tonight the two side’s meet for the first time in MLS. The main sub-plot being it is the Sounders first away game and Toronto’s first home game (where they are traditionally a lot stronger) of the season. The main plot of course, is the battle in the stands. Not in a hooligan sense but the two newest clubs who also pride themselves on having some of the best support will no doubt be trying to outdo each other with every decibel and it’s possible the action on the pitch may be an afterthought for some. It will be interesting to see how many Seattle bring to BMO Field as an indication to their dedication of their fan base, considering Toronto took over 2,000 down to the US for the Columbus game.
Amazingly, a massive story to have merged in the past day or so is that superstar striker Montero may not actually play because of flu, the official reason, or on account of allegations of sexual assault and stalking, according to the papers.
If he doesn’t turn out then it will be a massive boost for the Toronto defence, arguably the weakest aspect of the side, with Steve Zakuani still not quite 100 per cent fit after hamstring trouble and Freddy Ljunberg having play barely half an hour (last week) in just over nine months.
For Toronto, it will be Dwayne De Rosario’s first game in front of his home town fans. There are doubts over Carl Robinson and Amado Guevara, who missed the Columbus game due to international duty and also played for their countries in midweek. One point to note, Robinson retired from international football after Wales’ loss to Germany so that won’t be a problem from now on. I suspect they will both be risked and start the game.
The other question is about who do you play in goal. Stefan Frei started the season and did well but Canada international Greg Sutton performed heroics after coming off the bench against Columbus. If Frei is even half then the decision will be made for manager John Carver but if not then it will be interesting to see who he goes with and the story in general will be a sub-text to the season.