An American at BMO Field
This RBNY fan checks out a soccer game north of the border
My experience with soccer stadiums can be summed up by three. One: my first game when I was in high school my father took me to see the Columbus Crew play in the Ohio State Stadium (what’s up Brian McBride!). Two: the terrible thing you can’t even call a soccer stadium known as Yankee Stadium. And three: Red Bull Arena, acknowledged by many as one of the best soccer-specific stadiums in the MLS repertoire. I wanted to add BMO Field as my fourth.
MLS teams don’t play Wednesday games that often. Toronto FC’s owners were renovating BMO Field earlier in the season and the team now has a lopsided number of games to play at home. And a stroke of good luck has American national team players Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore playing for their club team between international friendlies and the upcoming Gold Cup.
With that good luck going my way, a bought a ticket.
As mentioned earlier, the majority of my professional soccer-going experiences have come from Red Bull Arena—arguably the best soccer specific stadium in the United States. BMO Field is a very different atmosphere.
Entering BMO Field
The walk to BMO Field is a beautiful one—much better than the empty wander to Red Bull Arena. BMO is situated within Exhibition Place, a campus of buildings old and new, private and public. The five minute walk from the Princes’ Gate entrance to the soccer field carries you along a rich architectural history. And once construction is completed throughout the area I can only imagine it’s a jewel of Toronto.
As you approach the field it’s impossible to miss the swatches of bright red—it’s a fun architectural element to an otherwise bare bones structure.
But you know what was really great? Not having to get that long, awkward pat-down to get through the entrance. Canadians just aren’t as afraid of their fans as American security is. Thank you, 🇨🇦.
Here’s where things got weird for me. BMO Field itself isn’t much more than aluminum benches, folding seats, and concrete blocks. Technically a lot of stadiums are constructed of similar materials, but the combination at BMO really felt like a AAA baseball stadium, or worse—a NASCAR track.
The announcer didn’t help. I don’t know what I want a soccer announcer to sound like (I’m not in love with the Red Bulls’ either) but this guy sounded like he would be calling the rodeo the following weekend. Even playing the whole Drake album (which they did) wasn’t enough to convince me I was at a very midwestern sporting event.
Oh, and they serve peanuts in the stands like at a baseball game. I know they do this at Yankee Stadium (duh!) for NYCFC games, but it’s not done at Red Bull Arena so I immediately associate it with some other sport.
But wait! The beer, we gotta talk about the beer.
Well maybe not the beer—it was mostly your basic American options. But the container! I’ve never seen anything like it. At Red Bull Arena you get a cup, but at BMO Field you get a cup and a lid that cross-pollinates a sippy cup and a coffee cup lid.
Red Bull Arena is designed so that the field sits a few feet lower than the closest seats—it creates a sightline that is always great no matter the seats. My seats for this game were pretty great, but I wouldn’t want to be many more rows back from where I was. BMO Field has a flatter vantage point—the seats are set up like your local park baseball risers, creating a stunted view no matter your seats.
Much has been made about Red Bull Arena and it’s European, soccer-friendly design. RBA is “built vertically,” allowing for sound to stay inside of the Arena. When Red Bulls fans go wild, it’s one of the loudest stadiums in the country. It’s only noticeable when compared to a place like BMO Field. It might be the fans, but I’d put just as much behind the stadium design to excuse the rather dull atmosphere.
The slow slope of the seats has another side effect—one I was thankful not to see that night, but did see on television the next weekend: when it rains, there is almost no protection from fans from the weather. At Red Bull Arena I’d bet 80% of the seats are covered.
Thankfully not everything is different team to team. The tradition of having the young kids play during halftime is found at Toronto FC games too. And at BMO they are called the TimBits! Thank you Tim Horton’s for this very weird corporate sponsor naming opportunity.
The Montreal Impact played Toronto FC as a part of the MLS’s Rivalry Week—a rather contrived event created by the soccer league to generate some buzz and attendance numbers. I gotta say, coming from the Red Bulls’ side—where we have a long history of hating DC, and a new rival in the Bronx in NYCFC—if this is a rivalry it sure feels like a weak one. Or maybe Canadians just aren’t as rude to their opponents as New Yorkers are.
I mean, the Toronto FC supporter’s section did have a decent banner to welcome the Impact at least.
But even then they’re subtly congratulating Montreal on getting deep into the CONCACAF Champion’s League. Even in rivalries, Canadians are generous.
Rivalries aside, you come to BMO Field to see the DPs: Bradley, Altidore, and Giovinco. And tonight they would not disappoint.
But first I gotta give some love to a former Red Bulls player. Ambroise Oyongo was going to be the future of the Red Bulls before being traded to Montreal this offseason. He ended up fighting the trade and sitting out for the early part of the season. I don’t think any Red Bulls fans hold any ill will toward him, so seeing him score this screamer as the opener made me very happy.
Sadly that’s all that would come from the Impact. From there on in it was the Toronto DPs’ show.
Michael Bradley, the heir apparent to the US Men’s Captainship, tied it up in the first half with some nice ball movement and a beautiful pass from Giovinco.
The other American star, Jozy Altidore, would get the eventual game winner on a beautiful transition play with an amazing assist from Bradley.
And not to be outdone by his American teammates, former Juventus player Giovinco would get fouled in the box and get his goal with a great penalty kick.
As a Red Bulls fan, it was hard to ask for a better game: a goal from a former player, and all three DPs for Toronto FC getting goals. BMO Field and Toronto FC might just see me again if our schedule’s cross—and in the meantime I gotta find one of those beer lids for home.
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