Home proves to be sweet for TFC

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:02 PM ET

Home, sweet home.

It’s taken more than three years for Toronto FC and its fans to say that about BMO Field. But, this season, the opposition has been vexed. Three MLS games: TFC is perfect.

Throw in a win against Montreal in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and the Reds are 4-for-4.

Since the team’s first home game in 2007, when it was clear that Toronto was going to embrace Major League Soccer like no other North American city, TFC players who have continually talked about transforming BMO Field into a fortress. About this stadium being the kind of place where three points for the home side is almost taken for granted.

Things going right

And this year, all the elements are conspiring in TFC’s favour. Heck, you’d almost wonder if the Reds were sacrificing a goat before each home game, or the players aren’t washing their socks.

Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Chicago Fire was played in a ridiculous windstorm, and Nick LaBrocca’s opening goal was meant to be a cross: But it was swept by a gale and hooked past helpless Chicago ’keeper Andrew Dykstra.

The win over Seattle? Coach Sigi Schmid sat almost half of his regular starting lineup as his troops were dealing with a brutal schedule.

Early red card

Philadelphia obliged Toronto by taking an early red card. Montreal also went down to 10 men.

When they are at home, the breaks are all going TFC’s way. The juju is good.

“Even when we don’t play our best, the bounces seem to going for us,” Reds defender Nana Attakora said. “The balls are bouncing for us rather than their strikers, and last year it didn’t seem like we were getting those breaks. But this is giving us more confidence. There’s no excuses at home anymore. We have grass, we have got the fans behind us.”

Ah, the grass. Chad Barrett, who scored twice in Saturday’s win, also gives the groundskeeper a heck of a lot of credit for the BMO renaissance.

“We complained and complained and complained that we wanted grass and they gave us grass,” Barrett said.

And, that means the ball is bouncing truer, that passes are easier to judge, even when the winds in the stadium have you wondering where in the area the twister has touched down.

Even Colorado, which boasts its mile-high home field advantage, has lost a game on home turf this year.

And that’s the thing about MLS. We can go on and on about how TFC, through its history, has been an awful road team. It’s easy to point to the fact TFC hasn’t got close to getting a single point on the road this season. But, in MLS, you don’t need to even be a passable road team to be a playoff side.

And, so far that looks to be the way Toronto will need to go. While coach Preki said the team hasn’t been as bad on the road as its 0-4-0 record indicates, that it has been victimized by “lack of focus or lack of concentration for a few minutes,” it is mitigating the road woes by being dominant at home.

“When that (road losses) happens, it’s really important to pick up points at the home field,” he said.

Real Salt Lake won just twice on the road last season, got into the playoffs anyway, and then won MLS Cup? Why? Because RSL lost just once in Sandy, Utah, in 2009.

Yes, Real Salt Lake was a team that underachieved all season long and put it together for the playoffs, and TFC is still very much a work in progress. So it’s not fair to compare them just yet.

And, Attakora said the Reds need to get something on the road. As Toronto FC won Saturday, the undefeated Los Angeles Galaxy made its biggest statement of the season, beating Seattle 4-0 in the city of Starbucks.

“At the same time, we need to get some points away from home,” Attakora said. “If you look at the best teams, New York and L.A., they are getting wins on the road, too.”

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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