VANCOUVER — No doubt a good many Toronto FC supporters woke up with a nasty hangover on Sunday morning, given the way their side opened the MLS season on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds couldn’t have looked more disorganized in a 4-2 loss to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. It was an embarrassment.
But there is good and bad in most things and Saturday’s match at sun-soaked Empire Field offered proof of that.
As for the bad, at least from a TFC perspective, it appears doubtful, at least from this early-season vantage point, that Toronto will finally be able to break its playoff jinx after four straight years of ineptitude.
New head coach Aron Winter is attempting to implement a ball possession system similar to his former European powerhouse side, Ajax. But as a highly regarded soccer insider said following Saturday’s dismal performance by the Reds, it takes considerable time for any team to adapt to that style of play, never mind a side that appears to be lacking in the talent necessary to effectively play that system.
But what’s even more troubling than the awful performance by TFC, its defenders particularly, was the way in which Winter responded to his team’s ass-kicking. The former Dutch international suggested that the loss was more to do with key off-sides that weren’t called and non-calls by referee Paul Ward than it had to do with the expansion Whitecaps coming out with much more drive and commitment.
Toronto captain Dwayne De Rosario, who scored for TFC along with Maicon Santos, probably had it right when he said the loss was the result of a pair of factors — Vancouver rising to the occasion emotionally and strategically and the Reds still trying to adapt to Winter’s system.
“It’s going to take time. It’s hard to come in and implement a new system, a new style, totally different from what a lot of guys are used to, and it’s going to take time to adjust,” De Rosario said. “But like I always say, hopefully sooner than later, because this is the first game and games are going to start coming fast.”
The Reds host the expansion Portland Timbers in their home opener at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon.
“But I believe we have the guys that will are able to adapt and hopefully get it going next week for the home opener,” De Rosario added.
Long-suffering TFC fans can only hold their breath.
But yet, not all is gloom and doom in soccer land.
Apart from the disappointment of another Toronto loss is the realization — hammered home by the incredible atmosphere at Empire Field on Saturday — that soccer fans in this country are on to something good, something magical even.
Even non-soccer enthusiasts reluctantly admit that the atmosphere at BMO Field for TFC games is undoubtedly the best live sporting experience in Toronto. It’s no contest.
And Vancouver matched that on Saturday, with a sold-out crowd of 22,000 fans chanting and cheering and waving scarves and screaming “The Leafs suck!” — as any sports crowd outside of Ontario is wont to do.
It’s hard to believe that any crowd in Canada could match the atmosphere of BMO Field, but the Whitecaps faithful did just that.
And now Montreal is joining the MLS family next year.
Impact crowds at Saputo Stadium are already fervent — and that’s with their side playing in the inferior North American Soccer League. Once the team joins the MLS, that support will likely ramp up even further.
The rivalry between three Canadian MLS sides promises to be explosive and the atmosphere in the respective stadiums will match — at the very least — the Bell Centre crowds when the Leafs visit Montreal. Maybe even better.
Whether you appreciate The Beautiful Game or not, these are exciting times for soccer in Canada, though excitement is probably not the word most used by TFC fans this morning.