Toronto and Spurs, new link-up, one goal: a Top 4 finish
Toronto FC’s big-money signings are expected to lead the Reds’ playoff charge this year, but expectations of easily qualifying for the postseason are likely unfounded. A reasonable target for the Reds in the Eastern Conference is one that Jermain Defoe can relate to – a top 4 finish.
Toronto have never been a playoff team and still lack a backline that looks capable of challenging for trophies like the Supporters’ Shield. Loan signing Júlio César and Designated Players Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Gilberto have vastly improved the side this season, but I still feel that a playoff place and a Voyageurs Cup this season would constitute a fantastic return for head coach Ryan Nelsen.
That Canadian Championship win would see Toronto into the CONCACAF Champions League group stages, where they could make the most of Júlio César’s loan before it runs out at the end of 2014.
I want to revise that benchmark, though – Toronto needs to aim for a top 4 finish in the East. Such a finish would guarantee a home playoff game, something that hasn’t been seen in Canada – in MLS, ever.
5th place gets you in the playoffs, sure, but so often that last Wild Card spot sees your postseason ending before you can play in front of your home fans. Scraping into the Wild Card as the away team and getting beat 3-0 hardly seems worth it (without naming any names, of course).
Top 4, an easy target and one that Defoe is used to from his time at Tottenham with UEFA Champions League places on the line. Just like in England, a top 4 finish will take Toronto to the promised land, and at least 1 more home date against quality opposition.