Historic TFC Season Creates Big Expectations
MLS Cup Predictions Point To Toronto FC
Many MLS soccer pundits believe that Toronto FC fields the best lineup in MLS history, bar none. They concluded the regular season with 69 points, breaking a 19-year-old record held by the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Reds also earned 20 wins, tying the record set by the Seattle Sounders in 2014, clinching the Supporters’ Shield a month before their first playoff match.
Toronto’s dominance was outlined by ESPN’s team of analysts, with depth and scoring prowess as repeated themes. Of the eleven experts asked to prognosticate the MLS Cup winner, nine staked their prediction to the Reds. The other two believed that the Vancouver Whitecaps would emerge as champions on December 9th.
Statistics gurus at FiveThirtyEight give Toronto FC a 27% chance of winning the cup, 11% better than the Seattle Sounders – last year’s champs. MLS Cup odds offered by some sportsbooks suggest that Toronto FC is two times more likely to win than New York City FC, who have the second-best odds of winning. Toronto hasn’t won a major pro sports championship since the Toronto Blue Jays, nearly a quarter-century ago. The Reds were close last year, and most believe that this will be the season the drought ends.
Culture Of Winning Lifts TFC To New Heights
Everyone knows the designated player trio of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, who form one of the best cores in the MLS over the past few years. However, general manager Tim Bezbatchenko should be lauded for signing Bradley, and finding a fantastic array of key supporting personnel who get the most out of Toronto superstars.
Bradley has been an enforcer of culture change within the Reds organization, bringing a blue-collar mentality to everyday duties. Little gestures, like choosing coach over first-class to fly alongside his team, created a significant ripple effect throughout the organization. Instead accepting old patterns established during the early seasons of the TFC, Bradley forcefully eliminated the lack of professionalism that used to define the club.
Bezbatchenko includes himself as part of the culture change, striving for continual improvement instead of resting on the laurels of an MLS Cup run. Adding Victor Vasquez was a stroke of genius, putting Toronto FC’s already-deadly attack over the top.
Giovinco and Altidore have received more support from the midfield than prior seasons. This diversifies the attack with notable contributions from backs like Justin Morrow, who completed a hat trick to confirm the Reds first Supporters’ Shield.
The front office should be applauded for following up on Tim Leiweke’s initial vision for the club. TFC is deep at every position and without an obvious weakness, a difficult task in the complicated financial structure of the MLS.
Reds Look Great – But Nothing’s Guaranteed
It’s a stretch to believe that Toronto FC will fall flat before the MLS Finals, mostly because of the team’s historic strength and depth. Nonetheless, trends show that only a single top seed has made the MLS Cup since the introduction of the knockout round in the playoffs.
The 2011 Los Angeles Galaxy won the cup as the number one seed from the west, but every other conference winner has been between the second and fifth seed.
The Reds must remain fully focused to avoid becoming the latest favorite to be kicked out of the MLS playoffs before the final game of the season. All it takes is a short burst of bad play to put themselves behind the eight ball. Still, TFC faithful should be pleased that their side will win the cup if they maintain their lofty regular season example.
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