TFC Republic Weekly: March 27-April 2 lookahead
Toronto FC will be looking to extend its unbeaten run to five games when it hosts Charlotte FC this weekend.
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...
Toronto FC builds momentum after draw in San Jose
A road game that had disaster written all over it for Toronto FC ended up with Bob Bradley's side earning a valuable road point on Saturday.
TFC were minus a slew of players, but they still managed to walk away with a positive result in a 0-0 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park to extend their unbeaten streak to four games.
Sean Johnson earned his second clean sheet of the campaign, as the Reds posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since last July when they earned a 4-0 win over Charlotte FC and battled the New England Revolution to a 0-0 draw.
Several injuries left TFC severely short-handed on the weekend. Italian DP Lorenzo Insigne sat out his fourth straight match with a groin issue. Forward Adama Diomande (hamstring) missed his third straight contest, while new left fullback Cristián Gutiérrez was ruled out due to a non-Covid illness. Toronto was also missing five players who were with their national teams: Canadians Jonathan Osorio, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Richie Laryea and Ayo Akinola, and backup goalkeeper Tomás Romero (El Salvador).
With so many absences, TFC 2's Alonso Coello was signed to a short-term loan for Saturday's game, and the 23-year-old impressed with a solid effort in central midfield, playing the full 90 minutes in his MLS debut.
Bradley heralded TFC's effort on the night, while also feeling his team could've won if it was "a little bit sharper."
"We trained this week the way we always do. We looked at the opponent. We tried to take the things that we work on a regular basis, and make sure they are on the field. So, there was no talk that just because we were missing some guys, we had to have a whole different way of playing," Bradley told reporters after the match.
TFC vs. Charlotte FC on Saturday
After hitting the road last week, TFC will be back at home when they host Charlotte FC on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET).
Charlotte opened this season with three straight losses before registering a 2-1 road win over Orlando City on March 18. It followed that up with a 1-1 draw vs. the visiting New York Red Bulls this past weekend.
Charlotte has failed to keep a clean sheet through its first five matches of the campaign and needed an own-goal to earn a share of the points against New York.
Toronto and Charlotte last met on Aug. 27, 2022 when the Reds recorded a 2-0 win at Bank of America Stadium courtesy of second-half goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. That was Toronto's last win away from home.
While it was far from pretty, aside from the goals by its two DPs, Toronto put in a solid defensive performance in Charlotte. In particular, centre back Chris Mavinga had a strong night in marshalling a back line that gave very little away.
“The mentality in the second half to pick the level up, play more football. … I liked the fact that in a tough first half we found a way to come in [at halftime] 0-0 and talk about a few things and were able to then come out with a stronger second half and take three important points,” Bob Bradley told reporters after the game.
Toronto leads the all-time MLS regular season series against Charlotte with two wins. These teams will meet again on Oct. 4 in Charlotte.
CanMNT vs. Honduras on Tuesday
Fresh off a 2-0 road win over Curaçao on Saturday, the Canadian men's team will be in action on Tuesday night when it hosts Honduras at BMO Field in Concacaf Nations League qualifying.
Saturday’s win meant Canada punched its ticket for this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup – the top eight nations from the four groups of the Nations League qualifiers clinch Gold Cup berths. However, a spot in the Nations League finals is still at stake for John Herdman's side.
Canada and Honduras are tied for first in Group C with six points apiece after three games. But Canada sits atop the table due to a superior goal difference (plus-5 vs. plus-1). The winner of this group and the three other groups qualify for the Concacaf Nations League finals in June, so Canada just needs a draw against Honduras to finish first in Group C and advance.
Tuesday's match is the first meeting between the nations since Honduras earned a 2-1 home win in Nations League qualifying on June 14, 2022. Heavy rains before and during the match tipped things in favour of Honduras who managed to get the better of Canada at San Pedro Sula’s Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano. Jonathan David scored in a losing cause for the Reds.
Honduras has won 12 of 27 games (with eight losses) against Canada dating back to 1980
Canada is 53rd in the current FIFA world rankings, 28 spots above Honduras.
TFC 2 kicks off 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season
Can TFC 2 build upon its breakout 2022 campaign?
That's the major question facing the junior Reds when they begin their 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season on Monday with a road game against FC Cincinnati 2. TFC 2 will also play away to Chicago Fire FC II on May 31 before hosting New York City FC II on April 14 in their home opener. All of TFC 2's home games will be at York Lions Stadium on the campus of York University.
Coach Gianni Cimini is back for his second year in charge, and the club has already made some notable roster additions. Among the newcomers are Toronto FC draft pick Jalen Watson (the defender was with the senior team for most of pre-season training camp), Jordan Faria (who returns to TFC 2 for his second stint), fellow midfielder Matthew Catavolo (formerly of the CPL’s Valour FC) and forward Jesus Batiz (ex-Rochester New York FC).
The club previously exercised the contract options on goalkeeper Luka Gavran, defenders Antony Curic and Rohan Goulbourne, midfielders Julian Altobelli and Alonso Coello Camarero, and forwards Alec Díaz and Reshaun Walkes. Fullback Kobe Franklin has signed with the senior team.
TFC 2 had struggled since their first campaign in 2015, and they never came close to qualifying for the playoffs when they competed in the USL and USL League One. But the MLS NEXT Pro's inaugural season in 2022 saw the team come of age, as it won the Northeast Division and finished second in the Eastern Conference with a 12-9-3 record. At one point, TFC 2 went on a franchise-high 10-game unbeaten run under Cimini, including seven wins.
TFC 2 beat Philadelphia Union II in the first round of the playoffs before losing a heartbreaker to eventual league champions Columbus Crew II in the Eastern Conference finals.
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Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
Last month, Toronto FC announced it had come to mutual agreement with Kadin Chung to terminate his contract, allowing the fullback to return to the Canadian Premier League where he has signed with Vancouver FC. Chung left TFC after one year, having appeared in just eight MLS games (five as a starter) last season and playing a total of 451 minutes. This was a player that Bob Bradly tried to sign during his tenure in charge of LAFC, so why didn't things work out for Chung at TFC? I recently chatted with the B.C. native to get his take on his time in Toronto, going back to the CPL and much more. Look for my story in the coming days.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- 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 Nations League qualifier against Honduras.
- A video blog on the state of the union at Toronto FC.
- My weekly TFC random thoughts piece.
- A TFC 2 season preview.
- A feature story on TFC 2 and how the side is aligned with the senior team
- The latest instalment in our "MLS rules explained" series.
- 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 email@example.com. You can also reach out to me via Twitter and Facebook.
(Top photo courtesy of torontofc.ca)
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