Toronto FC could have looked at the final game of the regular season as a pointless exercise, and could have opted to rest their starters in it.
They did not, however, as they were in pursuit of making history.
Toronto FC played to a 2-2 draw against Atlanta United on Sunday, and the result at Mercedes-Benz Stadium saw the Canadian side set the all-time MLS record for points in a regular season with 69. The previous mark of 68 was set by the 1998 LA Galaxy.
“I’m not in the business of saying who’s the best,” Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney told reporters after the match, before adding with a laugh, “Except for us. I’ll take that.”
Toronto had already locked up the Supporters' Shield before Sunday and the postseason homefield advantage that comes with that trophy, but breaking the points record clearly meant a lot to Vanney and his players.
“We’re proud of it,” Vanney said. “One of the things we set with this group is that we wanted to try to do something different, to try to be the best-ever.”
He added: “If I step back and for us to achieve the amount of points that we’ve achieved, in the conference that we’re in, to me is spectacular.”
Toronto captain Michael Bradley emphasized how his team went after every game this season, including against Atlanta.
“It would have been easy for us today -- with the Supporters' Shield in our back pocket already, with homefield advantage already in our back pocket -- to keep guys at home or to come here to play in a casual way,” said Bradley. “We didn’t.”
Interestingly, both Bradley and Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore were booed loudly by the record crowd of 71,874 Atlanta fans whenever the duo touched the ball. Altidore responded to the supporters in the 60th minute, when he outran Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst to the ball and poked it home past Brad Guzan.
Altidore celebrated the goal by cupping his ear with his hand, WWE-style, as if to say, 'I can't hear you.' Meanwhile, teammate Sebastian Giovinco picked up a cup of beer that had been tossed onto the field and took take a sip.
“I’ve been dealing with this since I was young. It is what it is,” Altidore said of the heckling. “It’s not going away anytime soon.”
Added Vanney: “I’m sure Michael knew that something was coming, and Jozy, and I think it was not a surprise. I think that’s what fans do. When you come into so-called enemy territory, their job is to heckle you and get on top of you.”
Toronto FC will not focus much on the jeers or even their points record, because the ultimate goal of winning the MLS Cup is still not complete. Toronto might have made history on Sunday, but there is still work to be done, with the winner of Thursday's Knockout Round match between Atlanta United and Columbus Crew SC on deck.
“Now it all starts over, everything,” said Bradley. "Everybody starts again at zero.”