Pressure on TFC to win

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 PM ET

The MLS Cup is indeed coming to Toronto, but with it, now comes huge expectations for Toronto FC.

Major League Soccer and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. confirmed on Tuesday that Toronto’s BMO Field will be the site of the league’s 15th championship game on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 8:30 p.m.

The home team has been in the contest only twice — 1997 and 2002 — but just making the playoffs for the first time in four seasons is the realistic goal for TFC.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say hosting the Cup is going to be a huge motivator for our team,” MLSEL executive vice-president and CEO Tom Anselmi said.

“The team has been a home run from Day 1, where we have to go next is, we have to deliver. We expect to make the playoffs this year.”

Anselmi joked that TFC manager/director of soccer Mo Johnston was probably “squirming somewhere” amidst all the heady talk of making the playoffs and competing in the big game itself.

On the contrary though, Johnston knows a playoff berth is overdue.

“The goal is to get to the playoffs, (try) to get to the final, no ifs or buts,” Johnston said.

“It’s going to give everyone a boost (but) if you can’t produce and you don’t do well, then we shouldn’t be in the profession.”

Toronto mayor David Miller, an avid soccer fan and TFC supporter, echoed the “Just Win, Baby” mantra.

“This is an extraordinary success story with one small exception that it has not yet made the playoffs,” Miller said.

“It’s time to win. The fans are unbelievable. But if you go around the block, Toronto’s ready for a winner.”

Miller, a veteran at playing to the crowd, many of whom were season ticket holders clad in TFC scarves, gave MLS commissioner Don Garber good-natured grief for not including TFC in a video montage highlighting the championship game.

The previous MLS Cup was held at Qwest Field in Seattle and drew 46,000 fans. BMO Field, capacity 21,800, is quite a bit smaller, but Garber didn’t seem concerned, praising the stadium for its ambiance.

“We love that (the) environment there is tight. It’s not about the revenue attendance brings in, but about the statement to the world of where our league is,” Garber said.

“We have confidence they’ll want to use the stadium as a platform to show the world who the Red Patch Boys are, who TFC fans are. (The game) will be the ultimate opportunity for them to show their passion for the sport.”

The MLS Cup will be turned by MLSEL and the league into a three-day event centred around Maple Leaf Square, the new $500-million development at the ACC.

TFC beat out strong bids from New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia and that the freshly installed grass at BMO Field played a huge part in Toronto’s victory.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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