A year-and-a-half ago I nailed my signed and framed Montreal Impact jersey to the wall in my hallway and strung my never-worn Bleu-Blanc-Noir scarf above my bed. I did this in my new apartment.
I left my native Montreal and migrated west to a new home. But I did not leave my soccer team. Since then I've been inundated with Toronto sports media coverage that has dwarfed anything I have ever seen.
Toronto FC has, of course, the unfortunate position of being behind such franchises as the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Toronto Raptors on the priority list. And it may be debatable to say they're at least ahead of the Argonauts. TFC remains a sort of niche sports market here in Hogtown. But the off-season flurry of activity and playoff push have afforded TFC more coverage than usual.
Because anything is more than nothing.
In general, the vibe in Toronto approaching tomorrow's game is one of cautious optimism. There seems to be the understanding that they are a better team, but that nothing is guaranteed. It does appear, though, that they lament having lost the home playoff date. Overall, however, one needs to search and scour TV, radio, and the internet to find this kind of information.
Despite the fact that this is the eve of TFC's first ever playoff game, local sports radio and/or television this morning seems to be more concentrated on the World Series, the beginning of the Raptors' season, and even the Habs' snapped winning streak (yes, really). It's hard to say whether this is more indicative of the city's confidence going into tomorrow's game, or of the city's flushed sports market.
It would be easy to be confident if you were a TFC fan right now. Your 3 DPs alone would cost more than the Impact's entire roster (MLS' shady financial reporting makes this hard to know for sure). Sebastian Giovinco is probably the best player in the league and Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore on the field with him make for a sort of three-headed monster. Kind of like the mythical three-headed Cerberus who guards the gates of Hell.
Except instead of Hell it's Toronto. So I guess it's exactly like Cerberus.
Of course I'm kidding, otherwise I wouldn't call this place home. Unrealistic housing markets, non-existent street parking, and the fact that they'll put literally any cheese on fries and call it poutine aside, Toronto's soccer fan base is small relative to the city's overall sports fan base but it is mighty. And they may just get their first ever playoff win on the day they get their first ever playoff game.
In an earlier article I suggested that to beat TFC in the playoffs, the Impact may have to count on Evan Bush to make a few saves that another goalie may not otherwise be able to. We saw this last Sunday when the Impact were (maybe) a better team than Toronto for about the first 10 minutes of the second half. And Bush did have to come up big on more than one occasion. That, combined with Didier Drogba potting two goals, Ignacio Piatti having space in the midfield, and, lest we forget, Laurent Ciman having a very strong game, won the Impact the game.
I wouldn't be surprised for any of these things to happen in any given game. But you're on the wrong side of any game when you need to count on all these things to happen in order to win. Toronto, alternatively, believes they simply need to "play their game."
And they may be right.