How sweet it is.
Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul in CONCACAF Champions League play has already been dubbed the best game in the four-year history of Toronto FC.
“It’s always great to win, especially (against) an opponent like Cruz Azul,” said Director of Soccer Mo Johnston. “It was big for the team, for the league. I felt for the whole 90 minutes, we were terrific.”
“It’s a benchmark game, not only for the franchise but for the MLS as a whole. They want us to compete, to win games, and we showed we could do that. It’s a serious benchmark for the league and for Toronto FC.”
As they prepare for Saturday’s home gig with New York, the Reds have the look of a team far removed from a losing team. Next Tuesday in CCL, they have a road contest against Panama Arabe Unido (GOL TV Canada, 8 p.m.), a six-time league champion.
“I think we’ve turned the corner,” said Johnston. “It’s just staying clean and healthy. The amount of games we have coming up, the guys are going to get tired but there's no excuses. The guys are playing very well, jelling together. Off the field, they’re a happy bunch.”
Johnston credits Preki for a run that has seen the club lose just five of its last 23 games.
"The point I have made is that he brings that experience of MLS. He’s been a player, he’s played in all-star games, playoffs. He’s coached in the playoffs. Hopefully he can get us into the MLS playoffs.”
“We are very happy with where we are. Looking down the bench we have much more depth than last year and in year’s previous. When you look at it it can only be good moving forward.”
MORE ON THE 'BENCHMARK' from Mike Ulmer.
A benchmark is an indispensable tool when building something great.
It is a fixed, everlasting mark. Everything to come exists because of it. Future endeavours are measured against it.
Tuesday night at BMO Field, and Toronto FC delivered a coming of age 2-1 win over Cruz Azul in a CONCACAF Champions League group game.
It was a benchmark game. The Reds delivered 90 minutes worthy of the most rabid support. In the opening half they outplayed and outchanced the Mexican team.
Based on their ability to shut out North American opponents over their previous four games, Cruz Azul was heavily favored.
It mattered not a bit to Toronto. First-half goals from Martin Saric and Mista delighted hometown fans. Jon Conway, in for regular keeper Stefan Frei, enjoyed a star turn. Toronto FC shrugged off the loss of the injured Chad Barrett and Maicon Santos and surrendered a goal only in the game’s waning moments.
A squad largely overhauled since the season opener and the resolute work of Preki has delivered a talented, entertaining team after three years of necessary but occasionally painful growth.
And that’s what Wednesday’s game was about, a benchmark moment that signals a break from the struggles of the past and draws a bright future into clearer focus. There will be losses. There will be disappointments. But for the first time, the club, its followers and players, have savored a night at the top. And now that they have, everything is different.
How sweet it is.