TORONTO – With two trophies already in the cabinet, Toronto FC has their eyes on more as 2016 nears conclusion.
“We aren't afraid to say that we want to win the Supporters' Shield; we want to finish first in the East, give ourselves the best possible chance going into the playoffs,” said club captain Michael Bradley from training on Friday ahead of Sunday's crucial top-of-the-Eastern-Conference-clash with New York Red Bulls at BMO Field (5 pm ET; FOX, FOX Sports GO in US | TSN2 in Canada).
Toronto, in their tenth season, find themselves in a rare position: on the cusp of locking up a playoff berth for the second straight year and one of the favorites to hoist the Supporters' Shield as the best team in the regular season.
With 46 points, TFC currently trail FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy in that race – by five and one point(s), respectively – but have a game in hand on both and play five of their six remaining matches at home. They have by far the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the league.
Dallas, fresh off their midweek victory in the US Open Cup final, face a daunting close to their season; as does LA.
The Colorado Rapids are level on points with TFC, have an additional game remaining, and have a much easier schedule than the others, but have fallen off their impressive midseason pace, with just one win in their last five matches.
Toronto's stiffest Eastern competition, the Red Bulls, trail TFC by two points and have just five matches remaining. A TFC win on Sunday would open a five-point gap, leaving their opponent in the rearview.
With Toronto close to another trophy, Benoit Cheyrou says it's no time to rest on their laurels, “[The club] cannot be satisfied if we do not win other things this year.”
“[The] Trillium Cup was for fans; the Canadian Championship means a lot,” recounted Cheyrou. “[But] we're on the way to do great things... still a long way [to go]. We're in a good spot; the club and the team are very ambitious. That's the way it has to be to be successful.”
“Soccer is about fun, but you have fun when you win... trophies, games,” added Cheyrou. “I will enjoy it.”
And after the Supporters' Shield is awarded comes the playoffs and the MLS Cup.
Talking the talk, however, is different from walking the walk.
“It's one thing on Friday afternoon to sit here and say these things. It's another to step out on the field, and be ready to go after it,” acknowledged Bradley. “The exciting part is that we have six games now to do that and if we're able to do that six times, I like the position we're going to be in.”