In the team's first game at home since a remarkable run to last year's MLS Cup final, Toronto FC played to a goalless draw with Sporting Kansas City on a rainy Friday night.
Jozy Altidore sat much of the game, while Sebastian Giovinco was held without his first goal of the season once again, despite a handful of good chances, as neither side could score in the battle of unbeaten teams in Week 4 of the Major League Soccer season.
After opening the season on the road and going 1-0-2, TFC returned to BMO Field for the first time since the MLS Cup final last December, a wintry night that had ended in heartbreak – with green and blue confetti flying as the Seattle Sounders hoisted the cup after besting the Reds in a shootout.
The rainy weather for this home opener was reminiscent of Nov. 30, the night TFC treated its fans to an unforgettable goal-filled semi-final match with the Montreal Impact and won the two-game aggregate 7-5. Their improbable journey had captivated a fan base who lived through the lean years. After a brief off-season, the fans returned Friday, ready for the next chapter.
On this frigid, miserable, rainy March night, with a frosty wind roaring through the lake shore stadium, BMO Field wasn't as packed and rollicking as it had been on those memorable playoff nights. Attendance in the 30,000-seat house was announced at 27909.
Still red and white smoke and fireworks crackled to welcome the team home, while an enormous black flag was unraveled in the stands, revealing the season's theme in red scrawl: Dawn of the Reds. A large red banner swung in front of the supporters' section reading "With heartbreak comes a new beginning, a new opportunity".
A brand new playing field made its debut. After living through its first shared season with a CFL team last year, hosting a Grey Cup and then being smothered under an outdoor NHL ice surface for the Centennial Classic, last year's natural grass pitch was torn out and replaced. For the earlier-than-usual home opener, the BMO Field grounds crew did something unprecedented. They re-sodded it during a Canadian winter, with the help of an inflatable greenhouse built over the field to hold in heat and artificial light.
Giovinco returned Friday, after missing the win at Vancouver due to a leg injury sustained in their second game. Michael Bradley started the game, despite playing heavy minutes for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier Tuesday in Panama City. The two others from that qualifier, however, began Friday's contest on the sidelines – Altidore (U.S.) and Armando Cooper (Panama).
Victor Vasquez started in place of Cooper. Midfielder Justin Morrow was out with a heel injury, so young Toronto native Raheem Edwards got his first MLS start. Clint Irwin was back in goal after Alex Bono started thet game in Vancouver.
"Coming back from international weeks, notoriously haven't been our best performances because we have big personalities on our team who aren't with us for periods of time," said Toronto head coach Greg Vanney.
There were several prime scoring opportunities missed. Giovinco fanned on one early, failing to get a solid foot on a beautiful pass in front. Then Jonathan Osorio boomed two wide, Eriq Zavaleta headed one high, a Tosaint Ricketts had a right-footer blocked and an Edwards came ever so close several times, charging at the net from out wide. Giovinco buried his face after his second-half free kick rifled off the crossbar and his late-game shot was wrangled by the keeper.
Irwin left the game after he was injured making an awkward leg save on Kansas City's Soony Saad in the 36th minute and instantly collapsed to the ground, clutching his leg. The keeper walked off slowly, with help, and Bono replaced him.
Altidore finally entered the game in the 62nd minute to a loud ovation from the fans, replacing Ricketts. Cooper didn't enter until the 76th.
Bono – who has yet to allow a goal this season -- made three saves on the night, and Irwin made two, as the team had its third clean sheet in four games. Vanney said after the game that early examinations indicated Irwin may have a hamstring injury.
Toronto took 13 shots to Kansas City's 15, but just two of those TFC shots were on target.
The Reds play four of their next five at home, starting Apr.8 versus Atlanta United.