TORONTO -- The evening started with a march, several hundred red-clad, scarf-wielding Toronto FC fanatics falling into line behind a Highlander band -- bagpipes and drums -- for a spirited march from the mall attached to Air Canada Centre down Bremner Boulevard to Rogers Centre.
The jaunt stopped traffic and brought out cameras from tourists, from locals -- even from the construction crew working on the latest skyscraper to dot the glorious skyline of Canada's biggest city.
And the most impressive thing in an entertaining and dramatic 2-2 draw between the Reds and the Galaxy to open their home-and-home CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series, without question, was the support the home side received inside the one-time SkyDome.
Some 47,658 crammed into the dome, which had been pressed into service -- thus doubling the crowd count -- because cold winter weather, and likely snow, was going to make BMO Field, Toronto FC's usual home ground, unplayable. (Turned out to be a nice, sunny, quite-warm-by-Toronto-standards kind of day, but who could have known?)
It created an electric atmosphere, which both sides noted in the postgame mixed zone.
A selection of comments:
Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee: “It seemed loud as hell. With the roof on the building and everything, it was hard to hear pretty much anything. I thought they gave [their team] a pretty good push.”
Toronto forward Danny Koevermans: “It was amazing. Everyone enjoyed it. It was fantastic. Of course, it's a shame for us -- also for the people -- that [the Galaxy] tied in the last minute. But if you ask me, make BMO bigger or move to here. Because it we can get a home crowd every time 40,000, it would be amazing.”
Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant, who spent a year and a half with TFC: “We didn't expect anything less from the fans here. We knew that they were going to come out in droves, and they made a great atmosphere, so I think that it lifted the game.”
Toronto defender Torsten Frings: “It was an absolutely great atmosphere. They fired the team up, which made the team play well.”
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena: “That was terrific support of their team. The fans deserve a lot of credit for coming out and supporting their team. It's a huge statement for their franchise.”
Don't expect anything similar at next week's second leg at Home Depot Center.
Capacity for Wednesday's decider has been capped at 7,500 as part of an agreement the facility has with Cal State Dominguez Hills on school nights. The stadium, on the western edge of campus, and the university share parking lots, and students, reasonably, have first dibs.
Koevermans heard about it in the postgame mixed zone. He didn't mince words.
“That's stupid. That is stupid,” he said. “L.A. Galaxy is a big club in L.A., and they showed it because they have [in David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan] three big-name players. So when it's the CONCACAF quarterfinals, I think that it's a stupid call, because you see what happens here, and I think they can do it, too.
“Especially with the game 2-2, it's an all-or-nothing game, and In think that it can also be 40,000, but they made a change, so I think that maybe it works to our advantage. You never know.”