Toronto FC may have come up short in Chicago. The 2-o loss to the woeful Fire ended TFC's six game point run. But what I witnessed after the game was as much a sign of victory for this team as three points would have been in the long run.
For a number of years I rode the bus and flew and stayed in the same hotels as the only consistent champion this city has known for years, The Toronto Rock. No matter the sport, or the league, pro or semi pro, however you care to label it, there is a constant amongst winners. Attitude.
Since I have been traveling with Toronto FC, I have been watching for those same characteristics I witnessed from The Rock, to surface with TFC.
Despite the fact The Lacrosse players spend far less time together during an NLL season than professional soccer players do, I always marveled at how much chatter about a win or a loss there was post game amongst the players.
Post game with The Rock we would all go for a pop and inevitably, each group of players I would encounter, would still be talking about the game. What happened, why it happened, how to be better next game. The markings of a champion. I Always enjoyed my post game chatter with the likes of Head Coach Les Bartley, Jim Veltman, Pat Coyle and Glenn Clark. These men were always students, humbled by the game despite their success.
The odd game on the road I would walk into a hotel room and there were Paul and Gary Gait, lacrosse legends, talking with those names I just mentioned about the game they just played against once another.
Flash ahead to post game in Chicago. The banter about what happened in the 2-0 loss to the Fire was immediate. For my ears, this was a first. The culture with this Toronto FC group is headed in the direction Head Coach Aaron Winter, Associate Bob de Klerk and Player Development Director Paul Mariner all want.
There are no guarantees this group of players will be champions for Toronto FC. However, what i witnessed this past weekend in Chicago showed signs of hope that the culture around the team is pointed in the right direction. Players are talking amongst themselves, veterans of the game talking with teammates and sharing their past experiences in similar game situations.
It's a work in progress still for Toronto FC. But it does appear that finally the foundation and vision for this franchise is stronger than it's ever been. Some players may not like the way things are being handled, and that will always be the case with any team. Those players, like many before them, if they don't buy into the plan, will be not long for TFC.
The FAN 590's Dan Dunleavy provides Toronto FC coverage on and off the pitch for GOLTV.ca