TORONTO – Not for the first time this season, Toronto FC has become the talk of Major League Soccer.
The discussion has always centred on where TFC stands in relation to their closest challengers in the league. The Reds currently sit atop the table and look a sure bet to claim the Supporters’ Shield, the trophy given to the team that finishes the MLS regular season in first place.
But the narrative has significantly shifted in recent days. It’s no longer about how good this Toronto FC side is compared to the other 21 clubs in MLS. It’s about how it ranks when matched up against every other team in the history of the league.
Toronto’s win over the Chicago Fire last weekend fuelled the debate, as the Reds became the first team to 50 points this year. The victory also moved TFC closer to the record for most points in a single MLS campaign, 68, held by the 1998 L.A. Galaxy. With nine games left in this season, and 27 points up for grabs, TFC is within reach of breaking L.A.’s mark.
Comparisons have already been drawn between TFC and that L.A. side, and debates have raged amongst media pundits and fans as to which should be considered the best in MLS history. But it’s important to keep in mind that the season isn’t over, and there’s still the small matter of deciding who wins the MLS Cup.
It’s a fact not lost on Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko who, while proud of his club’s accomplishments thus far, is keen to remind everybody that being the best team during the regular season doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to win MLS Cup which, of course, is the ultimate measure of greatness.
“We haven’t won anything yet,” Bezbatchenko told Sportsnet 590 The FAN ahead of Wednesday night’s home game against the Philadelphia Union.
Coach Greg Vanney is in lockstep with his GM, and remains steadfastly focused on the immediate task at hand, beating Philadelphia – not on setting new MLS records.
“It’s great to talk about these things that are out there, but the most important thing is Philadelphia. Talking about championships, talking about Supporters’ Shields and talking about all of these things are wonderful, and they’re all goals for our group. But the most important thing is the game [on Wednesday],” Vanney offered.
It’s a message that appears to have filtered down to the players, too.
Captain Michael Bradley admitted that he and his teammates are fully aware of the L.A. record. But he maintained that he’s not looking that far ahead, rather only as far as Wednesday night.
“From the beginning of the year we have made it a point of worrying about nothing except for the 90 minutes in front of us. Enjoying wins in the right ways, making sure that with every win the confidence, the excitement, the enthusiasm is there, and we use that in positive ways,” Bradley offered.
“But all it really means is we want more. … For the time being, the only thing that anybody is worried about is Philadelphia, because it’s a huge game.”
Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio, one of Toronto’s longest-serving servants, is proud that TFC is in the discussion of being the greatest MLS team of all-time.
The Reds’ potentially record-breaking 2017 campaign is also a sign of how far this franchise has come since Osorio made his debut in 2013 when the team had yet to make the playoffs or enjoy a single winning season. But like Bradley, Osorio maintains that nobody is getting ahead of themselves.
“It just goes to show you how far we’ve come. For me, for a local guy who started at this club, that’s special. We haven’t really talked about the record, though. It’s more in the back of our minds,” Osorio told Sportsnet.
“At the end of the day, our number one goal is to win MLS Cup. We want to finish first and win the Supporters’ Shield because that can help us win the Cup. As we get close to the end of the season, I’m sure we’ll use the record as more motivation, but for now, our goal is the MLS Cup. That’s entirely what we’re focused on.”
NOTES: Toronto is unbeaten in its last 13 regular-season home games (with 10 wins) and has scored four goals in each of its last two matches at BMO Field… Wednesday’s contest is the second and final regular-season meeting between Toronto and Philadelphia. The teams battled to a 2-2 draw in Pennsylvania during the second week of the campaign, with Jozy Altidore and Justin Morrow scoring for the Reds… The Union are coming off a 2-2 draw on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes this past weekend and have just one win in their last four contests… After Wednesday’s match, TFC travels to Montreal to take on the Impact on Sunday.