TORONTO – It's good to get into a rhythm.
Toronto FC are looking to do just that as they prepare for a busy five weeks of MLS action.
Between May 9 and June 13, TFC have seven league matches before a slight pause for this summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia.
After a hectic start to the 2018 season, traversing the continent and the wilds of Concacaf, it's good to get back to the more familiar.
“It's nice to be at home for a while,” said Greg Vanney on Monday. “With the weather, we've been able to be outside, be on the grass, get our timing together, less travel.”
“A lot of us are in some ways are catching our breath now, able to focus on the league, make our run to get back into the equation,” added Vanney. “Because our goal remains the same: to win the Supporters' Shield.”
Unbeaten in two, with a draw against Chicago last weekend and a win over Philadelphia on Friday, TFC now turn their attention to this week's encounters, which see them host Seattle Sounders FC on Wednesday at BMO Field before hitting the road for a match against the New England Revolution on Saturday.
And the week may even see some of those injured return to action, as Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta, and Chris Mavinga – who Vanney referred to as the 'centre-back crew' – were reintegrated into training.
Regardless of whether any are fit in time for Seattle, Wednesday is set to be a special one, as the two clubs have met in the last two MLS Cup Finals. Seattle won the first in 2016, but TFC got the better of the Sounders in last season's climax.
That will add a little spice to the encounter.
“Yeah, there's a little sauce in there, definitely,” said Marky Delgado. “The year we lost, coming into the 2017 season, a few players on Seattle like to talk a bit, so they brought that up when we went to Seattle.”
“Now we got the win, so if they say anything we can say something back,” continued Delgado. “There's always a bit of bite, especially coming off whoever won, whoever lost in the MLS Cup. Right now we have bragging rights, so we look forward to the match.”
But with both teams looking to climb up the table in their respective conferences, history is of less importance than cold, hard points.
“A year ago we would have circled this,” explained Vanney. “We lost the final, went there under tough circumstances and got a good result.”
“This year it's another game. We want to get points. I'm sure they feel the same way,” added Vanney. “The final seems so far away at this point, we're looking at how we can get a result regardless of the history [between] us and the opponent.”
Having, like Toronto, balanced Champions League with the start of the MLS season, Seattle find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference on five points from seven matches. But to put much weight into the standings at this early stage is foolhardy. Much soccer remains to be played.
“They're going to come out,” warned Delgado. “A team still trying to find themselves and hungry for points like we are. It'll be a good match up.”
Seattle come to town off the back of a 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC, even though they played with a man-advantage for some 75 minutes. Despite those struggles, TFC will not be taking them lightly.
“They're still a good team, have players who can make plays,” said Vanney. “[Clint] Dempsey is a guy who with any half-look can be dangerous. Will Bruin is going to work his tail off, be a nuisance, can get chances and finish them. They are a team that can go on a run; that's what they've done the last couple of years.”
“They've gone through a little bit of change, some injury issues,” explained Vanney. “Their back-line getting beat up, between [Roman] Torres (hamstring strain) and [Chad] Marshall (neck – though he looks set to be available on Wednesday).”
“The loss of Jordan Morris up front is big for them, they were counting on goals coming from him,” continued Vanney. “Things like that can be costly. They're getting guys back: Ossie Alonso getting him back is helpful, but now last game they missed [Nicolas] Lodeiro.”
“Those little things hurt in the beginning of the season,” concluded Vanney. “But we've got to take them wisely and appropriately as they come here in a midweek game to give ourselves the best chance to get a result.”
With three of the next four matches at BMO Field before a two-game road trip at the start of June, Toronto will be looking to continue their run of form.
On seven points from as many matches, Toronto can look to near-history for example.
TFC began the 2017 season with seven points from six matches before embarking on a six-game winning streak; one that included the 1-0 short-handed win in Seattle. The club concluded that campaign with 69 points, setting a new league record for most in a season.
“It's not something we had planned for, but we can hold some confidence in the fact that we're close to where we were last year and know what it takes to make our way back up to the top,” said Vanney. “It's one game at a time, first one is Seattle on Wednesday.”