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  • Sober Second Thoughts: Toronto's team


    Walking into Rogers Centre Wednesday night was a jarring experience. Normally charmless and lifeless the building Cito Gaston built was vibrating with excitement.

    Across the far side was a canopy of red and white. Large tifo displays were intersected with flags of all sizes being waved frantically. Streamers floated above, thrown from all corners.

    A man in his mid-50s stood beside me. Without a hint of irony he looked at me and said “It looks like we’re at the San Siro.”

    At that moment, in that place, it hardly mattered if he was right or if he was guilty of the most extreme form of hyperbole. It felt like we were at the San Siro. Or the Nou Camp. Azteca. Bernabéu. At any of the sport’s cathedrals, really.

    It felt that we finally belonged in the narrative that is the world’s game. After years of sharing other’s glory, the self-proclaimed most multicultural city in the world was finally having a day of its own. Toronto had finally fully matured as a soccer city with a big stadium full of fans.

    Fans cheering for the home team.


    That’s remarkable. The only time more had gathered in the city to watch 22 men in short pants chase a ball it was one of those pre-season kick-abouts between Celtic and Manchester United. Those type of games are now played in a half full BMO Field. The local side gets the prime space.

    By the time Luis Silva had sent the crowd into a frenzy with his first career goal and a 2-0 lead for TFC any lingering questions about the long-term acceptance of our deeply flawed club had been answered. The Reds are part of this city now and this is a city that loves soccer.

    All for One is no longer a slogan; it’s reality. Celtic fans really do stand beside Rangers, United and City put aside their differences and there are no El Clasico battles in the stands. By a rough estimate there were less than 25 people in the crowd of 47,500 wearing LA Galaxy strips. Most were out on a school night.

    The most popular team in Toronto is now, clearly, Toronto.

    If the Reds can replicate their performance from the first 20 minutes of the game all season that connection will grow even stronger.

    The game itself was what you might have expected going in. The Galaxy are the defending champions of MLS for a reason and they are a more talented side than TFC right now. However, the energy of the occasion helped Toronto narrow the gap. In the end 2-2 was likely reflective of the game.

    The second leg will be a challenge, but Toronto is still in with a chance. It’s pretty clear that if you had asked anyone last summer if they would have taken a one off game to get to the semi-final of the CONCACAF Champions League – even on the road against Team Beckham --- they would have been all over it.

    Next Wednesday will be about the result. Last Wednesday, however, was about something more.

    It was about answering the few remaining anti-soccer critics one final time – The sport and the team are not going anywhere. It’s here to stay and has been for a long time.

    All for One, indeed.


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