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'It seems ridiculous:' TFC unhappy about being denied shot at MLS' Supporter's Shield

Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney reacts during a game earlier this season.
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney reacts during a game earlier this season.

Toronto FC appears to be getting screwed over, and head coach Greg Vanney and captain Michael Bradley aren’t too pleased about it.

The Supporters’ Shield Foundation, which hands out the Supporters Shield to the team with the best record in Major League Soccer after every regular season, announced on Saturday that it would not give out the Shield this season for the first time since its inception in the league in 1999, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My players are pissed,” Vanney told TSN’s Kristian Jack on Saturday.

A day later, after TFC beat Atlanta United 1-0 to further entrench themselves atop the league’s table, Vanney and Bradley had more to say on the matter.

“It seems ridiculous. And there’s no there’s no sugarcoating that,” Bradley said.

“It seems crazy that three weeks from the end of the season, that all of a sudden you just decide that one of the three biggest — one of the three trophies that teams are fighting for throughout a season — is is no longer in play,” Bradley continued.

“But having said that, we’re not gonna let anything, we’re not gonna let anything throw us off, we’re not gonna let anything faze us.”

Vanney said initially the organization thought somebody was joking around.

“For us it’s been a huge focus even when we came back from from the quarantine in Orlando, getting the points in the first three games were was our primary focus,” Vanney said.

“It’s always been about, the Supporter Shield. And then once you try to accomplish that goal then you concentrate on the playoffs. And so, with five games to go with that being such a focal point of our group to find out that a few guys somewhere in a pub decided to pull the trophy away from, you know, not even just us. It’s every single player in this league plays for that,” he said.

“Because, if you’re a traditional soccer person, then that’s a trophy you always want to win because it shows the best team that has endured over any circumstances — pick your circumstances this year. It’s COVID, it’s injuries it’s incredibly difficult schedules, because these games are coming back to back managing injuries, all these kinds of things that these guys are, and the players are having to endure,” Vanney said.

“We also do this for our fans and so, you know, the legacy of a club the legacy of a player and a legacy of teams and fans is how many trophies, you lift, and that’s why you do this … And so, to find out what five games (remaining) that, like I said, a handful of people decided that there is no trophy for, for whatever group wins and right now we’re in pole position, is for me, it’s really kind of disgraceful. It’s it’s losing the plot about what professional sports is all about. And it’s really pulling the rug out from under, under a bunch of professional players who really play for those kinds of things for trophies and for for the emotion that that brings.”

Bradley said that the decision wouldn’t stop the players from enjoying playing and competing. As one of the most prominent players in North American soccer though, the former U.S. national team captain made it clear he didn’t think it was a good thing for the sport.

“You have a large group of players, of coaches of executives, on the teams, (all) the clubs in the league, who are pouring their hearts and souls into this league and trying to grow the league and trying to improve the league and trying to you know, every year take it a little bit further,” Bradley said. “And when you have a decision like that, that gets made three weeks before the end of the season. It’s hard to … it comes across in a in a really, really bad way.”

TFC now has 41 points in 19 games, six points ahead of the Philadelphia Union and four ahead of the Columbus Crew. Those teams have played 18 games. TFC arch-rival Seattle Sounders had notched 30 points in 16 games heading into Sunday’s match with San Jose.

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