TFC Republic Weekly: July 18-24 lookahead
If all goes to plan, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi should make their Toronto FC debuts this weekend at BMO Field.
Welcome to the latest edition of TFC Republic Weekly, a free 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 set up their schedule of games for the week.
You'll also get a glimpse of what to expect at TFC Republic in the coming days.
So, without further ado...
Insigne, Bernardeschi could debut this week
This Saturday should be pretty special at BMO Field, as Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi could make their MLS debuts when Toronto FC hosts the expansion Charlotte FC.
Insigne was originally supposed to play his first game on July 9 against the San Jose Earthquakes. But the former Napoli captain arrived in Toronto in late June carrying a minor calf injury that he picked up while on duty with the Italian national team last month.
Since then, Insigne has been working out on his own, rather than participating in full training sessions with the rest of his TFC teammates. But he has been making steady progress, and if all goes to plan, he should feature against Charlotte on Saturday.
As for Bernardeschi, he only arrived in Toronto last Friday, and will have his first practice with the team this week. Assuming he's fully fit and hits the ground running in training, the former Juventus star could also play some part in Saturday's home game.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of immediate impact the Italians will have for a TFC side that is mired in a five-game winless skid (four losses), and is coming off a 1-0 road defeat to CF Montreal on the weekend.
With just two victories and eight points from its previous 15 matches, Toronto is in serious danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight year, something that hasn’t happened since 2013 and 2014.
"We'll be excited to get a lift when some of these other guys get here, get on the field and see if we can get ourselves on a little bit of a run," coach Bob Bradley said after the Montreal loss.
CanWNT vs. United States on Monday
Canada and the United States will square off for the first time since last summer's Tokyo Olympics when they meet on Monday (10:00 p.m. ET) in the Concacaf W Championship final at Estadio BBVA in Monterrey, Mexico.
Canada and the U.S. have already clinched berths at next year’s FIFA World Cup by virtue of finishing in the top four of this competition. But Monday's winner will also automatically qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The runner-up will be forced to play the third-place team, either Costa Rica or Jamaica, in a playoff in September, 2023 to claim the other Olympic berth on offer in the region.
“For any world class player or a coach, these are the games you live for. These are the games where you have to bring your absolute best to get a result. In finals, anything can happen on the day. But I think it’ll be what we expect it to be, which is a fantastic game of football where both teams will do anything to secure that Olympic spot,” Canadian coach Bev Priestman said.
Historically, this has been a rivalry that the U.S. has dominated since its first meeting against Canada in 1986, with 51 wins and only four losses in 63 all-time encounters. But veteran midfielder Desiree Scott, who has 180 caps, believes this Canadian team goes into the final with a new level of bravado after beating the Americans 1-0 in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics.
“Obviously after Tokyo, there’s going to be a little [extra] bit of fire and fight there. But it’s two quality top sides in the world going to war in a final, and I think that’s exactly what it’s going to be,” Scott said.
TFC vs. Charlotte FC on Saturday
Toronto FC will get its first ever look at Charlotte FC when it hosts the expansion franchise on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET) at BMO Field.
Charlotte (8-11-2) is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, just one spot and one point out of a playoff spot, and five positions and seven points ahead of Toronto. The club is coming off a disappointing 3-2 road loss to Inter Miami in which it squandered a two-goal lead (former Vancouver Whitecap Yordy Reyna scored both goals) and conceded the winner in injury time.
The team was coached by Miguel Ángel Ramírez until he was fired on May 31. Assistant Christian Lattanzio has taken over on an interim basis since then.
Brazilian forward Andre Shinyashiki and Polish DP Karol Świderski lead Charlotte in scoring with five goals each, while Ben Bender has a team-high five assists. Veteran defender Christian Fuchs, a key member of the Leicester City side that won the 2015-16 Premier League title, has two goals in 18 appearances for Charlotte.
These teams will meet again on Aug. 28 in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium.
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Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
Toronto FC’s remarkable mid-season makeover continued last week with the addition of Federico Bernardeschi, who became the team’s new Designated Player and the third star this season to join from a Serie A club. Bernardeschi, 28, fills the DP slot left empty following a recent trade that saw Toronto send former league MVP Alejandro Pozuelo to Inter Miami for General Allocation Money (GAM). The Reds still have one DP slot open after they mutually agreed with Mexican centre back Carlos Salcedo to terminate this contract.
If all goes well, Bernardeschi should make his MLS debut this Saturday alongside Lorenzo Insigne. On Monday evening, Bernardeschi will be formally introduced as a TFC player during a special event at Toronto's Real Sports bar. Look for my feature piece later today.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- Peter Galindo's weekly analytics and tactical feature focuses on how Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi will fit into Bob Bradley's system.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of TFC's home game against Charlotte FC.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's Concacaf W Championship final against the United States.
- My 1-on-1 interview with London-based Serie A journalist Adam Digby will examine Federico Bernardeschi and his time in the Italian topflight and the national team.
- The latest instalment of our Toronto FC Flashback series.
- Another edition of reader mailbag.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out to me via Twitter and Facebook.
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