So much of what it takes to win in soccer revolves around momentum.
If a club is playing well together, picking up wins where maybe they shouldn’t or, even better, succeeding when the odds are stacked so highly against them, an average team can transform into a great one by riding that cosmic wave of momentum. I’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance lately.
Call it the Montreal Miracle or call it L’Impact’s Limp Act, Toronto’s 6-1 win to advance out of the Nutrilite Voyageurs Cup was nothing short of stunning. The look on the faces of Vancouver players — who were in attendance and awaiting the presentation of their title, if only Toronto wouldn’t win by more than four — confirmed it.
You can bring up the fact that essentially Montreal fielded a reserve squad. And yes, the fact that they were already out of the competition is worth mentioning, as Montreal clearly had their focus on a league game (one that they won) against Vancouver two days later.
But the effect of this win on Toronto, a team that had never before scored more than four goals in one game, should be no less profound.
All you need to do is look back on last year’s Voyageurs Cup finale, the 1-1 draw at home that bounced Toronto from the competition and sent Montreal rolling along to their Cinderella-like run in the Champions League, to see how one game can set the tone for a season.
Following that devastating, hand wringing, Jeff Cunningham killing defeat, Toronto would capture only one win in their next 10 games. It was an ugly stretch of soccer where players, passion and any momentum were absent for long periods of time.
Conversely, Montreal, who up until that point had only been playing around .500 soccer, didn’t lose a game in their next 11. They were one of two USL-1 teams to go deep into the Champions League that year.
Next month Toronto will face the other, the Puerto Rico Islanders, in the first of two qualifying legs to earn a berth in the Champions League. The Islanders, undefeated in their last six league games and sitting atop the USL-1 standings, will once again be looking to leave the island on a romantic run.
If Toronto wants to set off on some whimsy of its own, it needs to continue focus on the present. Getting full points from their next three league opponents — all weaker sides — would be a good start and would keep the momentum rolling.