It wasn’t until 2014 that TFC finally got it right, hiring the administrative pieces that changed the culture at the club in general manager, Tim Bezbatchenko and head coach, Greg Vanney. The additions of U.S. national team captain, Michael Bradley, from Roma and Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus in their respective primes showed a real intent to change the culture in the 416. Bradley’s two-way game and experience having played for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Aston Villa in the past added much needed vision and discipline to their midfield.
But Giovinco’s contributions have been even more essential. The Atomic Ant, aside from a strong loan spell at Parma, disappointed in Serie A despite winning two Serie A titles with Juve. The fact he even ended up in the MLS at age 27 showed just how much he failed to realise his potential in Europe. Since arriving in Toronto though, he has made the MLS his personal playground to toy with defenders at will, with 58 goals and 35 assists in 90 league games for the Reds. Winning an MVP award in his first season in 2015 and setting several club and league records along the way, Giovinco’s performances even ignited talk that he should be recalled by the Italian national team, for whom he has 23 caps. Antonio Conte and current manager, Gian Piero Ventura, continuously dismissed any chance of a return, rendering MLS as your average corner league. But when you see Spain recalling the aforementioned Villa for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers after three years in New York and the fact Italy hasn’t been blessed with a strong array of attacking talent over recent years, such an argument carries less weight. That’s an argument for another day though.
With home field advantage throughout the playoffs a near certainty at this point, now more than ever lies Toronto FC’s best chance of capturing the title they came agonisingly close to lifting last December. Possessing the most potent attack despite only possessing the ball 50.6% of the time, allowing the second least goals in the league and under a head coach they’re willing to go to battle for, anything less than lifting the MLS Cup would be a failure. After bowling over the league but letting it slip through the wickets when it mattered most, it’s time for Toronto FC to hit for (the) six and get over the one boundary they’ve yet to overcome. In a city that hasn’t seen a winner since the Blue Jays of the early 90s and a country who hasn’t had much to celebrate football-wise since winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000, it would be a much welcome achievement.