Vancouver Whitecaps fans have looked across the country to the soi-disant centre of the universe, and watched the disintegration of Toronto FC with glee.
The obscene payroll, the civil war between Italian superstars in the locker-room, the parade of coaching failures being given the bum’s rush out of BMO Field, and the ignominy of being the last-place team in the Eastern Conference. Their 4-13 record is only better than the Colorado Rapids’ 3-13 mark, the same franchise that has a fan base staging walkouts and calling out ownership for their team being worth 30 per cent less than any theoretical expansion team.
It’s supercharged schadenfreude from the Westernmost MLS team, who look forward to Saturday’s meeting — 4:30 p.m., and free to watch on Apple TV — especially after poaching Richie Laryea from their ranks.
The 28-year-old used a three-year stretch at TFC as a springboard to the English Premier League with Nottingham Forrest, then returned to Toronto and MLS on loan from August 2022 to this past June. He was easily Toronto’s best player this year, making the MLS team-of-the-week a club-best five times and scoring two goals and 18 assists across all competitions.
But instead of returning to Toronto when his loan expired this summer, he ditched the Reds for the Whitecaps in July, agreeing to come to Vancouver through the end of the 2023 season. That move also left a sour taste in a lot of TFC mouths, as a Toronto-born player, who had such extensive history with the team, had ostensibly turned his back on his former club.
If there was schadenfreude from his new team’s fan base, there has been nothing but gratitude and graciousness from Laryea toward Toronto since he’s arrived. He gave a shout-out to TFC president Bill Manning and general manger Jason Hernandez in his introductory news conference in Vancouver, thanking them for “pulling a lot of different strings” to keep him in Toronto and his family comfortable.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC
4:30 p.m. PT, Saturday, BMO Field
TV: Apple TV. Radio: AM730
And when it came to TFC’s low point, as they’re expected to miss the playoffs for a third-straight year, the ever-professional Laryea passed on the chance to take a shot at his old club.
“It’s just football. Teams go through these stretches. Some of the greatest teams in the world go through stretches like this,” he said. “That’s a little bit what’s happening. Obviously I hope they sort it out over there … But when it comes to this game against them, I’m just looking to win, compete and for us to get three points there. It’s a tough stretch for them, but I’m sure there’ll be back.”
His departure reverberated through a TFC world already shaking from the cataclysmic collapse — they’re 19-49-27 since the start of 2021 — but it’s unlikely he’ll be showered with boos on Saturday when he takes the field wearing blue instead of red. The closest thing to a jab on the players’ side came from Toronto midfielder Alonso Coello.
“He’s a very annoying player to play against,” he told TFC Republic’s John Molinaro. “He loves competing and he does it very well. In terms of football quality, he has a lot of it. On a personal side, I’m very excited to see him again.”
For Toronto, this game is about the future. For Vancouver (10-8-8), it’s very much about the present.
The Caps are sixth in the West, but only three points behind second-place Seattle, with two games in hand against the Sounders, and one on the three teams between them.
Terry Dunfield finally broke through for his first win as interim manager in Toronto with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia just before the international break, a result that ended an ugly eight-game losing streak. The Reds were outscored 17-3 and shut out six times over that span.
John Herdman, who ditched the Canadian national team for Toronto at the end of August, won’t take over as head coach until Oct. 1. But Vancouver manager Vanni Sartini says the change will have an impact nonetheless.
“I expect a very hard game,” he said. “I think the signing of John brought a kind of a new life. They’re already thinking like it’s 2024, and the players, they’re trying to show even if the manager is not there … they’re worth being there.
“They had a bad season. That’s nothing new to say. But they (have) very good players. The quality is really high.”
Laryea, who has 45 caps for Canada, was disappointed by Herdman’s decision to step down from the national team.
“From a national team perspective, that was a tough one for the guys, all the players to take,” he said. “He’s taken the national team to heights that many, many people didn’t even think was possible before 2026. Gutted in a sense of the national team because he’s done well, but I know this is now a new opportunity for him and he’s a guy that likes projects. So I know he’s gonna do really well at TFC. They’re lucky to have them.”
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