It's been a tough couple of years for Toronto FC.
Only FC Cincinnati propped up the Reds in the overall standings in 2021 and their misery was compounded with a Canadian Championship final defeat to arch-rivals CF Montreal. Head coach Chris Armas lasted just 15 games before being let go in July.
The start of the current campaign under Bob Bradley hasn't been ideal either, with Toronto winning only four of their 14 MLS matches so far. There's a creeping feeling that the 2017 champions are merely limping through until Lorenzo Insigne makes his historic summer move.
But Toronto received some respite on Saturday, beating CanPL side Forge FC in the long-awaited, re-arranged Canadian Championship final.
It may have taken a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw across 120 minutes, but bringing home some silverware and coming through adversity to win a final still represented a 'good step' for TFC, according to team captain Michael Bradley.
“With a new team, a lot of young players, and just for the way the last few years have gone for a lot of different reasons,” he told reporters. “The experience for this group to play in a cup final, to play on a big night, yeah, that was something we were all really excited about. This group needed that. So we're really excited and proud. It's a good step for us.”
In a bizarre twist, it's only a few weeks until Toronto host Montreal in the semi-final of the 2022 Canadian Championship. But despite the strange circumstances surrounding the weekend's triumph, head coach Bob Bradley still feels it's important for the players and fans to celebrate together and, hopefully, use it as a launchpad for the rest of the year.
“We want the guys [to celebrate]. On the field with the fans and then inside,” he said. “There's a feeling when that trophy is there and everyone knows they were part of it.
“At the end of your career you'll remember teams that played in finals, you'll remember cups you won. There's nobody that's going to look back and say, ‘Yeah, you know, that 2020 cup final that was played in 2022, that doesn't mean anything, right?
“It still was a night where at the end there's a trophy and you want to make sure everybody believes that it can be us, one way or another. Whether our football is good or not good, whether it goes to penalties, doesn't go to penalties. Everybody felt that and that's important. It's important that as a group, they experience the feeling of winning something. And hopefully, that's good motivation for the rest of the year.”