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Toronto FC's Trash Past Put to Rest

After 10 years of agony, TFC is going to the MLS Cup final.
The thrill of victory. Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

There are few things more annoying than proclamations of "I told you so," but hey, when it comes to Toronto FC in 2016… I kinda called it.

After a ridiculously back-and-forth two-game Eastern Conference championship series against their hated rivals from Montreal, TFC is on to the MLS Cup final, the first Canadian team to ever reach the league's championship game.

And perhaps the most gratifying element of the march to being within 90 minutes of hoisting the trophy is that the team's success this season is no accident.


Before the season began, it was clear TFC had stockpiled the sort of talent it would need to succeed in this league. A trio of 20-something designated players and reinforcements at the back—bolstered by useful midseason pick-ups Armando Cooper and Tosaint Ricketts—were going to pose problems for any team in MLS, if they could stay healthy.

Though TFC dealt with injuries and absences throughout the campaign, they did enough to snag third place in the Eastern Conference and managed to get all of their key contributors healthy in time for what's been an astounding playoff run.

Cooper and Ricketts both scored on Wednesday night, as did big-time striker Jozy Altidore. Defender Nick Hagglund got himself in the mix, as did uber-productive midfielder Benoit Cheyrou, who—and no, you're not reading this wrong—scored the goal that got Toronto FC to the championship game. Blink all you want, it will still be written on your screen, and still be true

That extra-time triumph was made possible by the steady work of goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who missed much of the season due to injury (and was admirably covered by youngster Alex Bono), but stepped up when it mattered most to keep the team's title-game dreams alive on Wednesday.

This isn't meant as full-on hagiography about a team that's merely qualified for a final; instead, it's a reminder that the narratives about TFC that have built up over the past decade (generally some variation on the "TFC sucks" theme) can now be fully discarded.


Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The debate will now ensue about how to complete the sentence, "This is Toronto's first championship game since _____". If you're counting only the "big three" of the Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors, it's 1993. If you're including the Argonauts and the Rock (they play lacrosse in the NLL), high-level success is much more recent.

But those pedantic arguments will be of little relevance to TFC fans who've suffered through 10 nearly uninterrupted years of trash, and can now truly celebrate. Whatever failings the team has had in the past can be left in the past. This is a team that could claim a league title in a week's time, in its home stadium, and do so without any sort of asterisk attached to its name.

Now, I won't open myself up to the wrath of the soccer gods by predicting how the final between Toronto and Seattle will end up. But the team has—with or without the prognosticators' backing—shown that it can do what's needed to be a marquee club in this league.

All that's left now is to take that one final, crucial, agonizing step.