TORONTO – Does a trophy make a rivalry? That’s the question many Toronto FC and Columbus fans have asked themselves about the Trillium Cup contest, which resumes on Saturday at BMO Field (4 pm ET, MatchDay Live).
Many supporters have always found the idea of a rilvary between the capitals of Ohio and Ontario as an awkward fit. There is next to no sporting history between the two cities in any sport and they have only been competing in soccer since 2007.
Yet, both clubs continue to sell this game as a genuine derby, regardless of the lack of history.
According to Red Patch Boys president Boris Aguilar, early fan resistance to what was once perceived as a manufactured rivalry is fading quickly – many TFC fans now look forward to the game against Columbus as much as any other.
[inline_node:334642]“It became about the fans,” he said. “There were a few interactions between the fans that caused a mutual dislike. From that, a rilvary that may have been contrived evolved.”
For Toronto’s sake, it’s a good thing the rilvary was focused on the fans, because Toronto FC have never defeated the Crew in 11 matches all-time between the Eastern Conference rivals. The Reds faithful even had to watch as Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer scored a stoppage-time equalizer against TFC last October.
The one-sided results might make some conclude that it’s only Toronto that cares about this game. Although many Crew fans will try to argue just that, supporters group leaders admit they might get an extra kick out of beating their Canadian foes.
“[It can be] mean-spirited at times, but has developed into humorous jabs back and forth for the most part,” Crew Union president John Clem said.
Clem thinks the fixture, and hype that surrounds it, helps to sell the game.
“Whether an on-the-field rivalry or not, it's good for MLS,” Clem explained. “It adds extra meaning to the games between the clubs.”
One of the biggest factors in the growth of the rivalry were two large trips by TFC supporters in 2008 and '09. MLSsoccer.com’s Canada reporter Rudi Schuller helped organize the trips and says that what transpired on those weekends helped solidify the feud.
“We went down and took over their stadium and basically made it a big TFC party,” Schuller said. “They didn’t like that and it motivated them to step up and do something about it.
It wasn’t just Crew supporters that left the games feeling uncomfortable, however.
“We didn’t like watching our team get pushed around on the pitch either,” Schuller said. “It just made us want to get them more.”
The Trillium Cup may have started as a marketing exercise, but fans on both sides agree it has evolved into something much more than that. And if the TFC faithful finally get the better of Columbus on Saturday, you can bet they will celebrate just a little bit harder.