Home sweet home, even if there is a little snow.
Toronto FC will play their first hone match of the season on Saturday with the visit of the Columbus Crew to BMO Field.
“It makes it better,” joked Jonathan Osorio as the flurries continued to fall. “We're in Toronto, so... No, seriously. It's always exciting, the home opener, BMO Field, there’s nothing like it.”
“Whatever the weather the fans come out and they support and that's why they're the best in the league,” he continued. “We're just excited to get in front of our home crowd and to give them a good performance.”
TRAINING SOUND | JONATHAN OSORIO - MARCH 10, 2023
Whether it’s the first or the umpteenth, home openers are special.
“First time the fans get to see the team at home, so we want to give them a good result,” said Matt Hedges, looking forward to his first in Toronto. “It's a little bit of extra pressure, but what we do there's always pressure.”
“It'll be different – new stadium, new team, new everything, but I am super excited,” he continued. “I’ve played in the stadium before and the crowd was fantastic, the field was great, the atmosphere was amazing, so I'm really looking forward to it.”
Federico Bernardeschi couldn’t care less if it’s a little chilly: “In Toronto it’s cold, but for me it's not a problem because football is football – or maybe soccer – and when the field is good, everything is good no?”
TRAINING SOUND | FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI - MARCH 10, 2023
“It's a little bit cold,” he allowed. “But okay we will figure it out and we will play a great match, for sure.”
TFC opened the season at D.C. United, falling 3-2 in the final moments of the match and followed that up with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Atlanta United.
“Two tough road games,” said Osorio. “First one we let slip away, but there was a lot of positives and the errors we fixed in the second game, defensively.”
“It’s always a tough game in Atlanta. Defensively, collectively, we handled that very well. We wanted it to be better – we didn't necessarily want the game to look like that – but it was what was necessary in that game,” he continued. “Now we're at home, we want to be the aggressors.”
After opening the season with two away matches it’s nice to be back on familiar ground.
“Big boost,” underlined Hedges. “Road games in this league are always super tough. It's tough to get good results on the road and so you need to take advantage of your home games. Getting points here, getting three points, would be massive for us.”
Lining up opposite will be Columbus, who are taking their first steps under new head coach Wilfried Nancy, who left CF Montreal in the offseason.
A 4-1 loss away to the Philadelphia Union on opening day was followed by a 2-0 win at home last weekend over D.C. where Lucas Zelarayán bagged a brace and Player of the Matchday honours. Cucho Hernández, leading the line, played provider on the opening goal.
“Wilfred was very successful in Montreal,” began Bob Bradley. “His teams play three in the back, some version of 3-4-3. It can take on a look of 3-4-1-2, he gives some flexibility in the front three. You'll see that flexibility in the positions that Cucho takes up and the ways Zelarayán moves around.”
TRAINING SOUND | BOB BRADLEY - MARCH 10, 2023
“With Zelarayán, his ability to play in balls from different areas – he whips in a really good ball –obviously he's dangerous in terms of his finishing around the edge of the box. Centre of the field, [Jake] Morris and [Darlington] Nagbe, Darlington's a good player, able to dictate the game at times, so you’ve got to try to close him down and make it hard for him,” he highlighted. “Solid team.”
Toronto will be wary of Columbus’ threats, but have their own plans in mind.
“We have the way we want to go about things, but we do look and see what their tendencies are, what they like to do, what spaces they want to try to exploit, those things we need to look at and and just know if they get into dangerous spots what they might be trying to look for,” detailed Hedges. “We've seen their players, we know what they want to do. It's going to be a tough game. They're a good team.”
With the last home game at the end of September, it will have been six long months since TFC last played at BMO Field.
It has been missed.
“Just the feeling: the feeling of being at home,” said Osorio. “BMO Field is such a beautiful stadium, it gives you the feeling of a world class stadium, a world class environment. The fans, our fans, are amazing, getting in front of them always makes it special.”
There isn’t anything quite like a night at BMO.
“When BMO Field is at it’s best,” said TFC captain Michael Bradley. “When we're playing in an exciting, aggressive way, when the stadium is full, when people are on the edge of their seats, when we're committed and giving everything on every play, when the people in the stands are doing the same, it's a pretty unique atmosphere in the league.”
TRAINING SOUND | MICHAEL BRADLEY - MARCH 10, 2023
“The league has grown in big ways,” he continued. “There's a lot of beautiful stadiums, there's a lot of big crowds and the atmosphere in each of those stadiums starts to take on the life and the fabric of the club. The one thing about BMO Field is it's pretty authentic.”
“There are stadiums that have cost more money to build, there are stadiums that by pure capacity are bigger, but when you talk about the setting of our stadium, how intimate it is, the way our fans live every play, the way they understand the game,” Bradley listed. “There's a big part to what goes on inside our stadium that's pretty unique.”
See you there.
“We need the fans,” said Bernardeschi. “We need our fans, we need your passion. When I'm on the field, this is very important for me, very important for the team.”