The best thing I can tell you about BMO Field in Toronto is that if you are an MLS fan you need to go there ASAP.
Go grab an MLS schedule, find out when your team is playing, book a flight (or fill your gas tank) and head north. It is an experience to remember and one that is deservedly the envy of the rest of the league.
The Toronto fans were great, whether hours before the game at the local soccer pubs, or during the game, when they spend all 90 minutes singing and jumping around.
Here are some of the highlights for me:
Seeing stadium security toss pass unrolled streamers to the crowd was amazing. Imagine seeing that at Giants Stadium. Not only would that not happen, if you tossed a streamer at a player at Giants Stadium you would get tackled by two state troopers as a state police dog mauled your leg.
The streamers are not that big an issue. I know some folks have a problem with the streamers being thrown on corner kicks, but they are harmless and the players being targeted didn’t have much of a problem with it. As long as it’s just the crepe paper streamers, and nothing sinister like coins or batteries, I don’t see the issue.
Here was Claudio Reyna’s take on the streamers:
"In Central America, with the U.S. teams, we’d get stuff thrown at us, but not as bad as that,” Reyna said. “(They have some) good aim. They were wrapping it around my ankles and I really had to stop. It was in the way, but it’s good. That’s great and they’ve really been a breath of fresh air in this league with the atmosphere they create."
Hearing the different sections go back and forth. The benefit of having a stadium filled with season-ticket holders is that all these people know each other, so when one section can finish the chant another section starts it’s pretty damn impressive.
Hearing TFC fans chant Marco Velez’s name in full voice. Imagine being Velez, who was in the USL a year ago, now being cheered on loudly by a packed stadium? He is loving life right now.
Maybe it’s just me, but I had never seen beer given out with lids on them. What a great idea this is. Who hasn’t been walking with some beers only to lose half a beer after being run into by some overzealous kid? TFC fans don’t have this problem because they get draft beers with plastic lids on the cups. Okay, so it does kind of look like a sippy cup, but at least they get to drink all their beer.
TFC dropped the ball in not establishing a visiting supporter’s section. Now I know this isn’t an issue for 80 percent of the games they’ll have, but BMO Field really needs to have a section that can be dedicated to visiting fans, even if we’re talking just 20. And no, there were no Red Bulls fans in attendance (Which made the Toronto fans chanting, "Can you hear the Red Bulls sing" all the more ridiculous.)
The location of BMO Field to Toronto’s downtown is priceless. This is all the more reason for visiting fans to make a trip to a Toronto game.
Thanks to the members of the Red Patch Boys who helped me out and got me a spot in the second row to watch the first half. I was about eight seats from the infamous (U-Sector created) Claudio Reyna poster (and am actually in the above picture) and probably could have hit Reyna in the head with a streamer if I wanted to (and no, I didn’t throw any streamers).
The songs the TFC fans sang were great, but I did feel a bit heated when I heard an anti-Jersey chant. Hey, I’m from Jersey, it’s natural. I couldn’t be that upset really, not after some U-Sectors a section away started an impromptu chant about me early in the game (thankfully it wasn’t ‘Who Are Ya’)
I got to meet Morgan Campbell from the Toronto Star. A great guy who, like me, played American football rather than futbol. He’s got me trumped on the credentials though. Campbell was a walk-on at Northwestern and earned a Rose Bowl ring in the process. I played in the Pride Bowl between Ramapo and Montclair State. Not quite the same thing, I know.
And in what might be a complete shock to some, I spoke to Amado Guevara after the game. Guevara was all smiles and gave me a hug and a handshake. I wasn’t going to avoid him and went to speak to him and he really surprised me with that greeting. Needless to say I was happy to see that any past drama was water under the bridge (maybe he read my stories saying that Toronto FC was smart for picking him up. Okay, I’m kidding).
That’s all for now. I plan on writing a more detailed account of my experience in Toronto for Monday so look out for that. Also, I wrote a piece on the fans in Toronto for ESPN.com that should post later today.