Cautiously Optimistic at the Midway Point

Fans of Toronto sports in all major leagues haven’t had much to cheer about since really the early 90’s. The Blue Jays were back to back World Series champions. The Leafs were a missed high sticking call away from a probable Stanley Cup berth. The hype surrounding the expansion of the NBA into Canada was incredible. The Argos were doing Argo things. Times were great.
Then something happened.

On the cusp of potential greatness, everything just sort of fell apart. The Jays haven’t been to the playoffs since they last won the World Series in 1993. The Leafs have consistently struggled, barring a couple of good runs in the early 2000’s. The Raptors have yet to win a playoff round in their history. The Argos are still doing Argo things.

Taking the last two decades into account, it’s no wonder why fans of quite frankly any team in this city don’t really know how to be happy when their teams do good things. We’re so used to the perpetual underachievement that all we see is the negatives, and rightly so…its been long enough.
With an 8-7-3 record and their most recent victory against Philly last weekend, TFC has now opened up a 5 point lead over the Union, finding themselves tied for 4th place and in the thick of the playoff race, thanks in large part to an MVP caliber season from Sebastian Giovinco.

Scoring goals at an unprecedented rate, the Atomic Ant is on pace to shatter just about every club record for on field production. For goodness sakes, we’re midway through the season and he already has the record for most assists and is just 2 shy of the record for most goals in a season.

This season, so far, has had a different feel than those of the past, for a few reasons.

Injuries. Unlike in years passed, this season, and I have every finger crossed while knocking on wood, has not been plagued by the injury bug as it has ravaged TFC in the past. There have obviously been injuries to a few key players along the way, Altidore for a short time and Caldwell and Bloom to name a few, the injury bug has spared us thus far.

Winning on the road. If the Reds hoped to reverse their entire history, they would have to do something they’ve never done, and that is win.

Even more importantly, winning on the road is key. The initial stretch of 7 straight to start the season was rough. But since the home opener, TFC has been among the top teams in the league and have been able to get points on the road in places that have typically been difficult, DC specifically.

Scoring goals. It’s tough to win games if you can’t score a goal, just ask the Canadian national team (hey-oooooo!). Until this season, the Reds have only had a few prolific goal scorers suit up: DeRo, Danny Koevermans, and Jermain Defoe in his short stint. We have never, and I repeat, NEVER, seen a player with the ability of Sebastian Giovinco. It can’t be overstated. As a whole, the team has scored 28 goals, good enough to be in a three way tie for 3rd in league scoring. Of those 28, Seba alone accounts for 43% of them. Factor in all three DP’s and they account for 71%. That is money well spent. Now if only the defenders could keep a few more OUT of the net, that would be awesome.

Aside from Seba’s MVP season, there seems to be a good energy surrounding the team. Players all seem to get along with one another, no in-fighting, little to no controversy. The running joke that has been TFC for 9 years just doesn’t seem that funny anymore. Some may disagree, but this club is on the verge of maturing into something we fans haven’t been treated to yet.

What I’m trying to say here is that, all things are pointing in the right direction.

Having played their fair share of away matches, and doing reasonably well I might add, TFC now shifts into the second half of the season playing 10 of their last 16 games with their home fans behind them. Home games are always an advantage, but they’re certainly no guarantee, not to mention the caliber of teams the Reds will have to face off against along the way.

If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. I’m paraphrasing a famous quote by Einstein, but it is exactly what players and managers need to tell themselves.

Fans of TFC are allowed to be a bit optimistic about the manner in which their team has been playing. But make sure it’s the cautious type. We’re all well aware of just how quickly things can go south, one needs only look at how the second half of the season unfolded just one short year ago. Let’s hope that the remainder of the 2015 season is a break from old traditions and the start of new winning traditions, something this city has been starved of for far too long.

A date with Columbus this weekend should wet the appetite of fans and neutrals alike. With Columbus sitting just 3 points up on TFC, the Reds will be looking for redemption after a very poor showing the last time these two teams met. It’s a Trillium Cup derby, woop-di-doo! The only thing players should be focusing on is the massive 3 points at stake. A win pushes TFC that much higher above that red line in the standings and hopefully will create an even larger gap between themselves and teams below them. Kamara vs. Altidore. Finlay vs. Giovinco. Cheyrou vs. Higuain. If it hasn’t been called so already, then it certainly should be…this is the game of the week.

(image courtesy of Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

About Rob Ditta

Toronto born. Mississauga raised. Red Patch Boy and proud supporter of Toronto FC.