A bandwagon jumpers’ guide to Toronto FC
Forget about the Toronto FC you may remember—that is, if you paid any attention to Toronto’s Major League Soccer team at all. The mismanaged franchise that stumbled through eight straight seasons after its founding in 2007 is a thing of the past. This weekend, BMO Field will host its second straight MLS Cup final, as the Reds look to avenge last season’s loss to the Seattle Sounders. Toronto FC’s odds have never been better, thanks to a series of shrewd off-season player acquisitions that vaulted the squad to the best record in MLS regular season history.
The finals happen this Saturday night, at which time your neighbourhood and social media feeds will be subsumed with references to Giovinco, corner kicks and the Inebriatti. If you don’t want to miss out, here’s your TFC FOMO remedy:
Victor Vazquez, “El Mago,” is the team’s magical midfielder
Vazquez, who was signed in the off-season, grew up playing in Barcelona’s famed academy and was dubbed “El Mago” (The Magician) when he was playing in Belgium. His arrival revolutionized Toronto FC. True to his nickname, he’s a passing wizard, with 16 assists, which puts him second in the league. He set up the goal that won the team the Eastern Conference, and he’s an absolute treat to watch.
Alex Bono has been the team’s playoff MVP
The 23-year-old goalkeeper didn’t allow a single goal in the two-leg Eastern Conference final, and he made a number of highlight-reel saves to keep the Reds alive. Bono started the year as Toronto FC’s back-up keeper, but stole the job after Clint Irwin went down with an injury.
Coach Greg Vanney is now one of the league’s best
There were questions about Vanney’s viability as a coach after he took over a fledging squad in 2014 with no previous major-league head coaching experience. Since then, he has managed a team of stars with a calm demeanour. He was named MLS Coach of the Year this season.
The Danny Dichio chant is alive and well
Come the 24th minute of every game at BMO Field, the entire crowd takes part in a rousing chant to honour former Toronto FC forward Danny Dichio, who scored the team’s first goal during the 24th minute. It’s a tradition that’s been kept alive since 2007.
Toronto FC is looking to cap off a historic season
With an astounding 69 points in 34 games, Toronto FC broke the 1998 Los Angeles Galaxy record for most points in a regular season. In most other soccer leagues, Toronto would already have been crowned league champion. (European soccer leagues award the championship to the team that finishes the regular season at the top of the table.)
Sebastian Giovinco is still great
With 16 goals this season, which ties him for seventh in the league, Giovinco is still one of the league’s deadliest scorers. He scored five goals from free kicks, an astounding number not just in MLS, but throughout the world. The Atomic Ant, as the diminutive but speedy forward is known, struggled with injuries this season but will still be playing in the final.
Jozy Altidore is Toronto FC’s Bobby Baun
In 1964, Bobby Baun scored a heroic game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals on what was later revealed to be a fractured ankle. Last week, after suffering an ankle injury of his own, Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore persisted, played with a hobble and still scored a decisive, series-winning goal.
Toronto FC has grand visions beyond Saturday
After having won the Supporters’ Shield (for best regular-season record) and the Canadian Championship, Toronto FC is looking to become the first ever MLS team to win a domestic “Treble,” three trophies in one season. And beginning next year, the Reds will compete in the CONCACAF Champions League with North and Central America’s best. They’re looking to parlay recent success into long-term possibilities.
This post originally incorrectly characterized the Supporters' Shield. It's an award for best regular-season record, not most goals scored in a season.