Soccer-Toronto looking to create MLS dynasty after dream season

TORONTO, March 1 (Reuters) - Toronto FC enter the 2018 season hoping to take a dynastic stranglehold over the North American League after last year's record-setting campaign.

Toronto enjoyed a dream season last year during which they earned the first domestic treble in Major League Soccer history by capturing an MLS Cup, domestic championship and regular season title.

Yet despite firmly establishing themselves as the league's class act, Toronto say they are not about to rest on their laurels and have plenty more still to play for, including surpassing the feats of previous powerhouses.

"When it's all said and done, we'll have a better roster than a year ago, be a better team," Toronto president Bill Manning said in a report on the MLS website.

"You have to go out and execute, but there is so much out there for us to play for. D.C. United, in the early years, went to four MLS Cups in a row. Those are the things we're putting as a motivation."

Toronto, spearheaded by forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, beat the red-hot Seattle Sounders in last year's MLS Cup final, avenging a loss on penalties to the same team in the 2016 championship game.

Toronto, who kick off their 2018 MLS season at home against Columbus on Saturday, return with the bulk of last year's squad intact yet with more weapons added to their armory.

Notable additions include Dutch international defender Gregory van der Wiel and Spanish midfielder Ager Aketxe from Athletic Bilbao.

The moves fit in with the club's aspiration to be ultimately regarded as one of the best teams in the league's history and of a similar stature to the LA Galaxy, who have won a record five MLS Cups in nine trips to the championship game.

"I point to the LA Galaxy. From 2009 to 2014, they hit four MLS Cups; won the Supporters' Shield two years in a row. How do we become that type of franchise?" said Manning.

"We've now gone to two MLS Cups in a row. I think we've established ourselves as one of the preeminent teams in the league right now. But now how do you do it for half a decade? Nobody's ever done it for a decade."

Toronto also feel they have the tools to become only the third MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions League, the annual competition featuring top teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Mexican clubs have won each of the last 12 CONCACAF Champions League tournaments.

"We are as equipped as any MLS team ever to win this competition," said Manning. "That's the type of aspirations we have; we don't want to sit back." (Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Toby Davis)

03/01/2018 15:00

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