“Phenomenal” home crowd makes believers out of Defoe, Bradley in MLS home debut


TORONTO, Canada — They’ve played everywhere from London to Rome, but Canada did right by new Toronto FC men Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley on Saturday afternoon.

“Phenomenal,” Bradley said after the match. “We all expected it to be good, but I don’t think anybody really knew that it was going to be this good. Standing on the field before the game, the entire stadium was singing the Canadian national anthem. It was special.”

Whether it was on purpose or accidental, the anthem’s volume lowered out of the loudspeakers and the crowd roared the anthem throughout BMO Field (Canadians are some of the least-hesitant singers on Earth, and good for them).

The buzz around BMO wasn’t as loud last year at this time, something TFC manager Ryan Nelsen noticed almost as soon as his team took the pitch for Saturday’s home opener.

“Even the guys were saying it was better than a lot of the atmospheres in Europe,” Nelsen said. “It was fantastic for the fans and everything to get out there. It was electric and unfortunately the football and the field didn’t match the atmosphere in the stands but we got a win.”

What about a certain diminutive 31-year-old striker from England?

“From minute one, the stadium was rocking,” Defoe said. “That definitely helps the team, lifts the players. I suppose we owed it to the fans to get a victory today and we did that.

“(It’s) a day I’ll never forget because I was so much looking forward to the game at home, to see the fans. Before the game you just hope that you give something back because I knew it was going to be an unbelievable atmosphere. They turned up in numbers and from the first minute to the last, they sung their hearts out.”

TFC hits the road for a spell before its next home match, which comes April 12 against Colorado. But for now, the long-suffering fans of Toronto have an unbeaten team that’s just starting to learn itself, each other and it’s fans.

And things are going well.