TFC Republic Weekly: February 26-March 3

Toronto FC kicked off its MLS season with a solid draw away to FC Cincinnati, offering fans a small glimmer of hope for the future.

TFC Republic Weekly: February 26-March 3

Welcome to the latest edition of TFC Republic Weekly, an email newsletter that will land in the inbox of both paid subscribers and free members of TFC Republic every Monday. 

This newsletter will look at what's in store over the next seven days for Toronto FC and offer a glimpse of what to expect at TFC Republic in the coming days. 

So, without further ado... 

TFC opens new season with a credible road point

Toronto FC showed plenty of defensive bark but little offensive bite in its MLS season opener. A committed TFC side put in the hard, physical work away to FC Cincinnati on Sunday only to be let down by a lack of quality up top as they hung on for a credible 0-0 draw.  

Toronto had just two shots on target and only registered one dangerous scoring chance – and that came off a set piece. Lorenzo Insigne lasted just over an hour before being subbed out and had one or two flashes of brilliance, while Prince Owusu offered very little up front while leading the line.  

On the bright side, it was a solid road performance from TFC who failed to win away from BMO Field all of last year. This was the club’s first MLS clean sheet since May 31, 2023, so it should give the team a big boost going forward. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson ended up making seven saves to register his 100th career MLS shutout. This was also John Herdman's first point as Toronto's coach.

The Reds remain winless at TQL Stadium (three losses in four visits) and haven't won their season opener since earning a 3-1 victory away to the Philadelphia Union in 2019. TFC sports an all-time record of five wins, nine losses and four draws in their season-opening matches. But none of that mattered to a Toronto team who thwarted the reigning Supporters' Shield holders at almost every turn on Sunday.

"It was quite a professional performance from the whole group collectively," captain Jonathan Osorio said. "And I think a very good point won on the road."

Herdman said the valuable road point was "exactly what we needed" for the first game of the MLS campaign.

"We showed that fighting spirit. We stayed connected right until the end. So, for me it was a good start to the season, but still work to be done. A lot," Herdman said.

Toronto FC earns credible draw in MLS season opener
TFC couldn’t find that extra bit of attacking quality in Sunday’s stalemate away to FC Cincinnati.

Reds make a slew of last-minute roster additions

GM Jason Hernandez was busy last week as he made a series of moves to strengthen his team's roster ahead of the season opener. 

On Tuesday, the club announced the signing of Irish international centre back Kevin Long from Birmingham City of the EFL Championship. 

Long comes to MLS with loads of experience. Before joining Birmingham last January, Long spent 13 years with Burnley where he featured in both the Championship and the Premier League. He also had loan stints with a number of English clubs, including Portsmouth and Barnsley. He made his pro debut in 2009 with Irish club Cork City where he came up through the youth ranks.   

Two days later the Reds brought back goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, signing him to a new contract through 2024 with an option for 2025. Toronto originally declined its 2024 contract option for Ranjitsingh at the end of last season. 

On Friday, TFC signed French defender Nicksoen Gomis from English club Sheffield United FC (through 2025 with options for 2026 and 2027), reacquired Canadian fullback Richie Laryea from Nottingham Forest (signed through 2026 with an option for 2027) and placed Norwegian forward Adama Diomande on waivers. 

The return of Laryea represents TFC's biggest move of the off-season as they have welcomed back one of their best players in recent years. Laryea, 29, returns to his hometown club where he has 10 goals and 13 assists in 95 MLS games. 

Both Laryea and Long started for TFC against Cincinnati.

Toronto capped off the week on Saturday by signing defender Adam Pearlman to a first team contract as a homegrown player through 2027 with an option for 2028.  

Transaction tracker: Richie Laryea returns to Toronto FC
TFC have agreed to terms on a transfer fee for Richie Laryea and has signed him through 2026 with an option for 2027.

TFC vs. New England Revolution on Sunday

Toronto returns to action when it visits the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Sunday (2:00 p.m. ET/Apple TV). 

The Revolution are coming off a 3-1 loss away to D.C. United last weekend in their MLS season opener in Caleb Porter's debut as the club's new coach. 

New England played the final 65 minutes a man down after Italian forward Giacomo Vrioni was sent off. Belgian international Christian Benteke scored a hat trick for D.C. United. Carles Gil scored a brilliant equalizer from distance in the second half to briefly give New England hope after it was outplayed through the opening 60 minutes. 

Before hosting Toronto, the Revs will welcome Panama's C.A. Independiente de La Chorrera to Gillette Stadium on Thursday for the second leg of their Concacaf Champions Cup series. New England earned a 1-0 win in the opener last week. 

Sunday's match marks the first encounter between Toronto and New England since the Reds suffered a 2-1 road loss on June 24, 2023. Deandre Kerr scored the lone goal for Toronto. That game turned out to be Bob Bradley's last in charge of TFC as he was fired two days later. 

This weekend's game is also the first between the two sides since last July's trade that saw TFC acquire Latif Blessing and an international roster slot from New England in exchange for Canadian midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. 

New England leads the all-time MLS regular season series against Toronto with 16 wins and 13 draws in 39 matches. The Revolution are unbeaten in five games against TFC (with three wins). TFC's previous road victory vs. New England was in 2021, which was Javier Perez's first game in charge after Chris Armas was fired. 

CanWNT Talk: Olympic champs rolling along at Gold Cup
In the latest video blog, we break down Canada’s latest win and look at what stood out from its performance against Paraguay.

CanWNT vs. Costa Rica at the Concacaf W Gold Cup

Thanks to two shutout wins, the Canadian women's team has already qualified for the quarter-finals of the Concacaf W Gold Cup. 

Canada opened the tournament in Houston with a 6-0 win over El Salvador last Thursday and followed that up with a 4-0 decision against Paraguay on Sunday. The reigning Olympic champions top Group C with six points, ahead of Costa Rica and Paraguay (three points each), and El Salvador (no points). 

Aston Villa forward Adriana Leon scored a hat trick against Paraguay and leads the tournament in scoring with five goals. 

The Canadians can wrap up first place in Group C with a draw when they play Costa Rica in Houston on Wednesday (6:00 p.m. ET/OneSoccer). 

It's important that Canada not only wins but scores plenty of goals against Costa Rica. The top two teams from each of the three first round groups and the two best third-place nations advance to the quarter-finals. The bracket for the knockout round is decided by ranking the eight teams in a single table based upon their results in the group stage. So, the higher Canada is ranked, the weaker its opponent will be in the quarter-finals. 

Right now, Canada and the United States are tied atop the overall table, but the Reds have the tiebreaker due to a superior goal difference (plus-10 vs. plus-nine). The U.S. plays Mexico on Monday in its final group stage match. 

Canada has won all 15 of its previous matches against Costa Rica dating back to their first meeting in 1991. The Canadians outscored their opponents 48-6, and the Costa Ricans have never scored more than one goal in those 15 games. Canada is No. 10 in the current FIFA world rankings, 33 spots above Costa Rica. 

The quarter-finals run from March 2-3 in Los Angeles. San Diego will host the semifinals and final from March 6-10. 


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Important dates to remember

Major League Soccer will have two transfer windows during the 2024 season:

  • Primary transfer window:  Jan. 31 to April 23
  • Secondary transfer window: July 18 to August 14

During these windows MLS clubs can sign a player under contract to another team via a transfer. All in-season trades between MLS clubs must also take place during these two windows.

The roster freeze deadline for this season is Sept. 13, which means clubs must submit their final 30-man roster for the remainder of the regular season. Teams can't make any player trades or transfer signings after that deadline.

Stories to look out for at TFC Republic

Kevin Long's recent move to Toronto FC from Birmingham City appears to a boon for the Reds as the Irish centre back looked solid in his MLS debut over the weekend. Long, 33, was a key player in helping Birmingham City avoid relegation last season, but he fell out of favour under coach Wayne Rooney and dealt with injuries as he floated in and out of the matchday roster under new bench boss Tony Mowbray since his appointment last month.  

How is his transfer to Toronto FC being viewed in Birmingham City circles? What can TFC fans expect to see from the Irish international? I recently spoke to UK-based reporter Brian Dick, who covers Birmingham City for the Birmingham Mail, to find out more about Long. Look for my feature story in the coming days.  

Other stories that will be published later this week include:        

  • A three takeaways blog on Toronto FC's draw vs. FC Cincinnati. 
  • My "random thoughts" column on TFC.    
  • A feature story on Richie Laryea's return to the Reds. 
  • A TFC training notebook piece following Tuesday's practice. 
  • In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Toronto's road game vs. the New England Revolution.  
  • In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's game vs. Costa Rica and its quarter-final matchup at the Concacaf W Gold Cup.  
  • Another edition of the TFC 3 Questions podcast with myself, host James Sharman, former Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan
  • And much more! 

TFC Republic mailbag

TFC Republic will feature a regular reader mailbag column where I answer questions from subscribers about Toronto FC and Canadian soccer in general.

I'll answer the best questions submitted to me by TFC Republic readers, so feel free to drop me an email at You can also reach out to me via Twitter.

(Top photo courtesy of Toronto FC)

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