TORONTO - Following two road fixtures and an opening home game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, TFC will play a de facto second home opener this Saturday at their regular stomping ground, BMO Field.
While the Reds struggled at home more often than not last season while ending the year on a 14 game winless streak under former Head Coach Paul Mariner, many TFC supporters likely still have vivid memories of a time when Toronto’s home field was known as Fortress BMO Field. With that history in mind, Saturday’s fixture doesn’t only represent a chance to earn a victory against the defending MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Galaxy (2 p.m. ET on TSN), it also represents an opportunity to set back the clock and reposition BMO Field as a place that opposition teams hate to come to. According to Toronto Head Coach Ryan Nelsen, that very proposition is one of his squad’s main goals for the 2013 season.
“It’s very important (to protect you home field and win games at home). It is one of our goals for this year – to make our home ground a horrible place for opposition teams to come to and such that no team can come in and expect an easy three points,” Nelsen told MLSSoccer.com. “We will do whatever it takes to defend our home patch and make our fans proud. That is one of our main goals.”
TFC midfielder Terry Dunfield sees Saturday’s match as an opportunity to set the right tone for all of Toronto’s upcoming home matches.
“I think (Saturday) is very important. I think if you look at the teams that have been successful in this league, a big part of it is home form. We have brilliant support at BMO Field and it is a great place to play. A couple of good results and we can get it back to being a fortress,” Dunfield said. Toronto set a club record with a 17 match MLS unbeaten streak at BMO Field back in August 2010. The spirit and dedication of TFC supporters not only played a major role in that streak but also in the fact that the Reds often punched above their weight class while playing at home in their early years as an expansion team.
Nelsen sees TFC supporters as absolutely vital as Toronto looks forward and seeks to make BMO Field a horrible place for the opposition and a genuine fortress again.
“They are a huge part of the cause. They give you incentive and they make it intimidating for the opposition. I know for a fact that some opposition players don’t feel comfortable when the pressure is on them, when a lot of eyes are focusing on them,” Nelsen said. “For us it is the support they give to our players that gives them an extra edge. I can’t say how big they are.” Sitting on a record of one win and two losses after playing two matches on the road and one in Toronto, Nelsen and his squad are likely heading into Saturday’s match against Los Angeles with confidence gained from the fact that they played well enough against three strong teams that - with a bounce or two having gone their way - they could have realistically earned a draw or two to go with the three home points earned against Sporting Kansas City.
That said, Toronto will be facing off on Saturday against a Los Angeles side that has won the MLS Cup the last two years and who have always cut an intimidating presence both on the road and at home.
In that vein, the Galaxy won’t only present a difficult opponent on Saturday, they also very much represent the type of side that Toronto is aiming to become.
“I think Los Angeles is an attacking minded team. Having said that, I think there will be chances to hit them on the counter. I think when Los Angeles comes to town, they don’t need any introduction. Everyone sort of raises their game a bit and wants to put one over on the Champions. They are the standard that we are striving to get to,” Dunfield said.