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Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Curse of the SkyDome Strikes Again

    Back on March 7th Toronto FC began their 2012 season with a dramatic 2-2 match in front of nearly fifty-thousand fans at the SkyDome in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

    A good time was had by all, but that grandiose opener brought about an epic stumble. Toronto went on to lose their next nine league matches – a horrid start to the season – before finally finding their first win against Philadelphia some months later.

    On July 21st TFC again took to the pitch at the hallowed old dome, this time in a high-profile friendly against Liverpool FC. Some thirty-thousand fans took in the match, a 1-1 draw this time around.

    Toronto entered the match with a new manager – Paul Mariner having taken over from the departed Aron Winter – and in good form, having put their woeful start behind them. TFC had taken points in eight of their previous nine matches and were on the verge of lifting themselves out of the Eastern Conference basement.

    Since MLS play resumed the following weekend, the side has not won a single league match - a winless run that has stretched to nine matches – though they have mustered three draws over that run.

    Is it all mere coincidence? Or should the club never ever play at the cursed site again? Granted, they have not lost a match there, but it appears to do absolutely no good for future results.

    The SkyDome – following some early success after its opening in 1989 – has not been particularly kind to the Toronto Blue Jays. Nor was it a good place to start a franchise’s history as the Toronto Raptors found out. The Toronto Argonauts have perhaps had the best success of the regular tenants, but many would have expected more than four Grey Cup wins over the twenty-three years.

    The displacement of a club from its spiritual home is always a tricky maneuver. Though Toronto and BMO Field are only six years into their relationship – one that has soured, the passion having burnt out with neglect, of late – it seems to do them no good to stray from their humble beginnings in search of the almighty dollar.

    There has been a certain amount of eerie symmetry to the Toronto campaign: it began and ended with designated players – Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans – unfit; the midseason run of good form began with a result against Houston, as did the poor one, just over a month later; and then there’s Santos Laguna’s involvement at both ends of the Calendar – the fifth match and penultimate one; an apertura and clausura meeting, if one prefers.

    Saturday night sees the club fly back across the continent to the site of their happiest memory from this year, a year best not recalled in great detail.

    On March 14th Toronto defeated Los Angeles 1-2 at the Home Depot Center, overturning LA’s away-goal advantage and progressing to the next round of the Champions League.

    Will that peculiar symmetry extend to a win that sparks a respectable end to a dire summer? Or will the curse of the SkyDome continue to haunt the side that tempted fate by flying too close to the sun?

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