Cup Defence Could Bolster League Form

Toronto FC must win the Voyageurs Cup for the fifth straight year, not only because it books the Reds passage to the CONCACAF Champions League and gives fans national bragging rights, but winning a trophy could be the catalyst for Ryan Nelsen’s club to achieve new heights in Major League Soccer.

There is a theory that the Amway Canadian Championship and the subsequent CCL matches are a hindrance to TFC’s progress in MLS. Since Toronto has never been a dominant MLS side, is it really fair or accurate to suggest there is a drop in league performance when cup matches enter the picture?

Now with a new coaching staff and squad, one that works hard in every match, has won points in five of seven outings – but continues to struggle closing out games – a successful cup run could give them the confidence to see matters to the end and pick up those points left on the pitch.

The first opponent, Montreal Impact (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET at BMO Field – Tickets), is tied for second place in MLS’ Eastern Conference and six points ahead of Toronto. Success over two legs against this arch-rival will prove to the club and fans just how far the Reds have come in the short time that Nelsen & co. have pieced together possibly the most competitive TFC squad since early 2010, the last time Toronto demonstrated any threat of moving up the league table into the playoff picture.

Heart-wrenching last minute goals conceded against LA Galaxy, Philadelphia Union and most recently, 10-man Houston Dynamo last Saturday, have cost TFC six points, the same margin by which Montreal leads Toronto in MLS standings, occupying one of the five MLS Cup Playoffs spots in the East.

“It’s difficult because you try your best to get ahead and try and win the game,” club’s leading goal scorer Robert Earnshaw said following the latest heartbreak. “It’s frustrating, even more, because it’s been a few weeks now,” he said of the various disappointments.  

“It needs to stop now if we’re going to improve and actually go to the next level.”

The next best chance to get there happens to coincide with a Canadian title defence against a top MLS side that starts on Wednesday at BMO Field.