What a difference turning over the entire squad makes as Toronto FC rolled over Charlotte FC in Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi’s first-team debuts Saturday night. The Italian designated players didn’t take long to make an impact either. Bernardeschi assisted his first Toronto goal only 10 minutes into the match with Michael Bradley scoring a header from a corner kick. Bob Bradley will appreciate the effort as Toronto won in front of their home fans by a 4-0 scoreline as his stars weren’t needed for more than a half of the play.
While Charlotte was playing on short rest after taking Chelsea to penalties in a midweek friendly, they weren’t ready for Toronto’s attack conceding only four minutes in due to a defensive breakdown. TFC took eight shots putting four on target and all four turned into goals. Bob Bradley couldn’t have drawn up a better night as Michael Bradley scored a brace, Mark Anthony-Kaye assisted two goals, Insigne assisted a goal, and Bernardeschi scored and assisted a goal.
Bernardeschi’s goal in the 31st minute showed that Major League Soccer will need to respect his left foot but playing him closer will only give Insigne and Jesus Jimenez more space to play in so teams will have to choose their poison.
There was even the added bonus of Toronto keeping a clean sheet which was their first since last September, a run of 29 games. It shows that while the back line needs improvement, the best defense is a good attack, which Bradley knows all too well from his days in charge of Los Angeles FC. If this dismantling by Toronto looked familiar it’s because there is a lot in common between this setup and the one Bradley used on the west coast with Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela.
The fact that Charlotte played into Toronto’s hands allowing Insigne and Bernardeschi to be withdrawn at the half is an added bonus because it keeps them fresh for the Canadian Championship on July 26 against the Vancouver Whitecaps. With a win in that match, Toronto can book their place in Concacaf Champions League no matter what happens in the league. But their ambitions are higher than that.
Sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference, Bob Bradley’s men are six points off of a playoff spot but they have five teams to pass to get there. With Insigne and Bernardeschi in tow, Toronto also has more talent available than any of the teams they’re looking to pass. They also have the added bonus of an open designated player spot that will be filled before the transfer window closes.
Adding Dominico Criscito into the mix, Toronto’s Italian contingent created nine chances in the match without Jimenez getting too involved. When everyone is unleashed this will be quite the attack but the hope will still be that the defense can do enough to support them. Adding Anthony-Kaye and Doneil Henry will help but there is certainly work to be done. If Saturday’s win over Charlotte was the appetizer for what this team can do then fans should be excited about the main course.
Toronto’s faithful have been waiting for this day and it ended up being better than expected but the team will need to keep the momentum to make the playoffs. After the Canadian Championship, TFC will face New England, Nashville, and Portland, showing what they have to offer quite quickly. Anthony-Kaye did leave the game injured, which will be the only worry currently but it seemed like a precaution while he dealt with cramps as the game was already won.