TORONTO – Two trophies won, one to go.
Toronto FC have a chance at doing something no MLS club has ever done before. Having won the Supporters' Shield and Voyageurs Cup (Canadian Championship) already in 2017, a victory over the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final at BMO Field on Saturday (4 pm ET | ESPN, UniMás, TSN, TVAS) would see TFC become the first MLS side to win a treble of shield, cup and domestic cup.
Eight other MLS teams have ended a season with two pieces of silverware; on two further occasions, teams had the shot at all three, only to fall short by inches on two fronts.
Toronto have already written their name in the record books with an all-time high of 69 points in a regular season. But is talk of a treble in the air as the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs near their conclusion?
“We know it's there. It was an objective or goal for us, but really, it's about one game,” said coach Greg Vanney. “I preach to the guys: Even winning this one is going to be a process. Started immediately when the last game ended, about recovering and preparing ourselves; then from the first whistle to the last. The outcome will be a product of what we're able to produce.”
Defender Steven Beitashour was similarly process-oriented.
“We've always had our goal and things have come along the way,” he said.
“The Canadian cup, it came along the way; we had goals. The 69 points, it came along the way,” explained Beitashour. “We have goals and those come along the way. Achieve your goals, that's what you get. Our goal is MLS Cup. If we win it, the treble comes along.”
In the previous 21 seasons of MLS, no club has ever achieved the feat.
“The league is set up for there to be parity,” said Vanney. “Within [that] we all find our ways to gain advantages. At the end of the day, everyone is equal; anybody can beat anybody on any given day.
“It's a very different animal being the Supporters' Shield winner and then being a championship team at the end of the year when it comes to the MLS playoffs,” he continued. “In 21 years, only six teams have figured out how to do that. In the modern era there haven't been too many.”
The last two teams to approach the treble – Seattle in 2014 and FC Dallas in 2016 – both won the shield and the US Open Cup, but were then unable to reach the MLS Cup final. No team since the LA Galaxy in 2011 has won both the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup; they lost in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup.
“It's the way the league is set up. It's meant to be unpredictable,” said Vanney. “We've done our job, creating our ways to win games, and we've found a way to evolve from the regular season to the postseason to do what we had to do to get results. That's a tribute to being able to adapt in the moment.”
Added Beitashour: “It's a difficult test. There is a reason it hasn't been done before. Your roster has to be very deep. Supporters' Shield is a tough task, arguably tougher than MLS Cup.
“MLS Cup is also difficult: you have to get hot in the playoffs, defensively and offensively firing on all cylinders. The [US] Open Cup, Canadian [Championship], that's a different task on its own.”
Saturday will mark the conclusion of a process that began the day after Toronto lost the 2016 MLS Cup final to this same Seattle side.
All has led to this moment.
“The year is very long,” said Justin Morrow. “The great part about this team is that we've battled through it all. We had times during the summer where we had guys out, [others] have stepped in and done a job. [These] playoffs series haven't been exactly how we wanted, but we're here. We're ready to win MLS Cup.”