It’s Heineken Rivalry Week around MLS, meaning Columbus Crew SC gets to kick off the annual Trillium Cup against Toronto FC. Sure, Toronto isn’t a rivalry forged by formative playoff battles like our rivalry with D.C. United, nor has it been fueled by nearly-annual Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup clashes like our rivalry with the Chicago Fire. To be fair, that’s only because Toronto FC is ineligible for these two competitions. [Note: It seems that in the club’s ninth season, Toronto FC was given special guest entry into last year’s MLS Cup playoffs via a new 6th-place charity slot for building the self-esteem of the perennially success-challenged. In their postseason debut, the Playoff-Poseur Hosers were blown out 3-0 before halftime.]
Historically, this has been a rivalry based on botany and laughter. The Trillium Cup is named after the official flower of Ontario and the official wildflower of Ohio. It allows for a more civil and peaceful competition when compared to the brutally bloody Trillium Wars, in which armed botanists representing “the O-H” and “the O-N” fought to the death over the rightful owner of the flower’s official-ness. [Source: Wikipedia, as soon as I create the entry, and before it gets taken down.]
When the Trillium Cup was announced in 2008, it inspired me to look inward and plumb the depths of my soul to write this piece of poetry:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Trillium’s a flower?
Who the (eff) knew?
The results on the field quickly warranted a second verse:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Trillium’s a Cup
That is owned by the Crew
Columbus has taken the Trillium Cup in six of the eight seasons, and it would be seven of nine if the trophy had been retroactively awarded for 2007. Of course, that might not be fair since, had they been motivated by the trophy, TFC might not have been so terrible of a soccer team. (Although that was proven not to be the case in most other years.)
Here are some notable moments in Trillium Cup history:
March 29, 2008: Toronto FC, who had never beaten Columbus ever (0-2-1 at that point), dropped a 2-0 decision that saw the first official launching of the Moffat Rocket and also the birth of the Nordecke. Over 2,000 Toronto fans wasted their time and money watching their team lose to the eventual Massive Champions. Like they say, the road to an MLS Cup title starts with #LOLTFC.
May 17, 2008: Toronto FC, who had never beaten Columbus ever (0-3-1 at that point), delighted their home fans with a boring 0-0 draw. After the game, Toronto coach John Carver had this to say about the legendary (and to use the official Michael Arace macro-inserted GBS adjective, incomparable) Guillermo Barros Schelotto: “Today we saw a professional diving all over the park. Is there anything going to be done about it? For the whole game, continuously, it was as if the wind was too strong for him. I’m not here to be a part of that. That’s not honest and professional. I’ve never seen anything like it.” When told of Carver’s comments, Schelotto offered a witheringly succinct two-sentence retort: “His team play very bad. He must feel frustration for his team.” #LOLTFC
July 25, 2009: Toronto FC, who had never beaten Columbus ever (0-3-5 at that point), held a late 2-1 lead and were on the verge of claiming the Trillium Cup against the team that was defending its MLS Cup title. Then Steven Lenhart scored some sort of flying karate kick goal in the 76th minute, which tied the game, but did not tilt the Trillium Cup race. Toronto was still poised to take it without a single victory, based on road goals after what would be three draws. Then, in stoppage time, Jason Garey buried a 92nd minute header off of a Frankie Hejduk cross to give the Black & Gold a 3-2 victory to secure the Trillium Cup at the last moment. #LOLTFC
October 16, 2010: Toronto FC, who had never beaten Columbus ever (0-5-5 at that point), held a late 2-1 lead at BMO Field and were poised to vanquish the Black & Gold at long last. Then William Hesmer did this:
You may have noticed that William Hesmer had gloves on his hands and was dressed in white, not the banana kit. Using these context clues, we can deduce that William Hesmer was a goalkeeper. The opposing goalkeeper was the stoppage-time goalscorer who denied Toronto FC their first ever win against Columbus. That’s peak #LOLTFC right there.
September 10, 2011: Toronto FC, who had never beaten Columbus ever (0-5-7 at that point), came to Ohio and whupped the Black & Gold 4-2 to claim their first Trillium Cup. Like a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, a bland squad finds a cup sometimes.
April 13, 2015: Toronto FC, who had recently launched a fan-driven banner contest, tweeted out the following submission:
They unwittingly propagated a hidden acrostic message about their own suckiness. (Read down the left side.) The banner was the creation of Central Ohio artist Justin Bell, and it held third place in the Toronto fan voting before TFC finally caught on and deleted the tweet. #LOLTFC
October 17, 2015: Toronto FC, who had recently spent a bajillion dolllars on players and were the defending Trillium Cup champions after an abnormal three-win sweep of Columbus in 2014, had to give the cup back to its rightful owners after Federico Higuain clowned them with a classic Pipa Chip to put an exclamation point on a successful Trillium Cup reclamation. #LOLTFC
And now here we are in 2016. TFC survived a prolonged season-opening road trip and is still spending a bajillion dollars on players, and to pay for it, they have eliminated one of the greatest downtown stadium views in MLS by adding a second deck to BMO Field. Here’s to hoping that on Saturday evening, all those extra fans have to endure a fresh #LOLTFC moment. By and large, it’s what this competition has been all about. That, and stopping rival botanists from slaughtering each other in cold blood.