Michael Bradley stood with his teammates on top of a red double-decker bus as chants of his name rang through the downtown streets of Toronto.
The Toronto FC captain soaked it all in for a moment before making a fist with his right hand and pounding it on his heart. And then he lifted the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy in appreciation of the city that stuck behind the team as it made an 11-year journey from perennial league doormat to the best team in Major League Soccer.
“This has been our dream, our obsession for the last year,” Bradley told a crowd of thousands Monday afternoon at Nathan Phillips Square for a fan rally celebrating Toronto FC’s first ever MLS Cup victory.
“And to be able to take care of everything that we wanted, to lift that trophy in this city in front of our fans, to give everybody a day like this…this is why every single one of us is here.”
Toronto beat the Seattle Sounders 2-0 in the MLS championship game at BMO Field on Saturday, becoming the first Canadian team to win the MLS Cup title. Seattle had beaten Toronto on the Reds’ home turf in the 2016 final, winning on penalty kicks following a 0-0 draw.
Fans wearing tuques, jackets, sweaters, scarves — whatever red clothing they could get their hands on — stood along Front and Bay Streets to salute their team.
There was a few in attendance, like 22-year-old Nicholas Fiore, that called in sick to work to brave the chilly -6 C conditions.
“I said, ‘Guys, TFC won the championship, you won’t see me on Monday.’”
Martin Omes has been a member of the Red Patch Boys — a Toronto FC supporters group — since the team started in Major League Soccer in 2007. He said having a team to get behind was huge while growing up playing local soccer, even if it took the Reds nine seasons just to make the playoffs.
“I’ve never been able to witness a Toronto major championship before,” Omes said. ”So to be able to be on the field with all my best friends, together as a family as one, celebrating to the top of our lungs, there’s no better feeling.
“Probably one of the best moments in my entire life.”
It’s the second championship Toronto has celebrated in the last two weeks after the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts won the Grey Cup at the end of November.
Bradley and his teammates popped a bottle of champagne on the bus outside Air Canada Centre before the starting the parade route. Supporters groups waved flags and chanted while walking in front of the team’s bus.
Toronto FC players basked in the chants of “TFC” and sprayed more champagne towards people on the sidewalk along the way.
Fans were already gathered when Toronto FC arrived with the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy at Nathan Phillips Square, where several team personnel made speeches.
Bradley told fans that he had immersed himself in Toronto’s sports culture since joining the team in 2014 and said his team will work hard to emulate the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series titles of 1992 and 1993.
“We’re going to enjoy this for a little bit longer and then we’re going to dust ourselves off and make sure we get back to work so that we can be lifting that trophy again next year,” he said.
Toronto (20-5-9) was the best team during the regular season and set a record with 69 points — the most ever in MLS history.
Led by Bradley and forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, the Reds set franchise records for wins (20), goals scored (74), fewest goals allowed (37), shutouts (13), home wins (13), home points (42), road wins (seven) and road points (27).
Toronto also won the Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions, beating the Montreal Impact in a two-game series in June.
Altidore scored the winner in Saturday’s victory over Seattle and took the microphone after Monday’s event to say a few final words.
“I just want to let you guys know that I’ve been partying since Saturday,” Altidore said.
“And baby, I’m TFC until I die.”