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...
TFC starting to come together under Bradley
Saturday's 2-1 home win over New York City FC was easily the best performance of coach Bob Bradley’s brief tenure, with the Reds going toe-to-toe with the MLS champs in attack, and at the same time showcasing a bend-but-don’t-break mentality in defence.
Jésus Jiménez continues to be one of the best newcomers in the MLS this year, as the Spanish forward scored his third goals in five games. Canadian youngster Luca Petrasso keeps repaying Bradley’s faith in him with his consistent and mature play, while Jonathan Osorio picked up an assist to further solidify his new partnership with Michael Bradley in central midfield.
Kosi Thompson, a midfielder by trade, was deployed as a right wingback by Bradley, and hardly looked lost in a sturdy 90-minute performance against the defending MLS champions. It was a poised display from the 19-year-old Toronto native considering he only played a total of 14 minutes this season coming into this match.
“Little by little we’re improving. The vision that I think we all have for this team is to be a team that’s good with the ball, has moments of smart possession, still finding different ways to go forward, finding moments to press, and then other moments to make sure we’re very compact. There’s a lot of details there," Bob Bradley said after the game.
"I still think at times there are moments where the timing of a play between one player and the next, or the confidence to give the ball at the right time, the quality of some of the passes - I still think those are things are going to get better and better."
Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty out 8-10 weeks
TFC coach Bob Bradley dropped a bit of a bombshell when speaking to reporters after the NYCFC game when he revealed that Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty could be out for more than two months after having knee surgery last Friday.
“There was a small fragment that had come loose that they were able to take out. Everything else looked quite good. So, the prognosis for everything is very positive. My guess is that we’re probably somewhere in the eight-to-10-week range,” Bradley said on Saturday.
Marshall-Rutty, 17, was subbed after 12 minutes in Toronto’s 2-1 road loss in Columbus on March 12 following what looked like a non-contact injury to his right knee. He came off the bench in the 65th minute in the 2-1 win over D.C. United on March 19. Bradley wasn’t sure when the injury took place.
“It’s unclear if it happened on one particular play. When he came on as a reserve against D.C., he did a very good job. But at some point, in the days after, he started feeling something in there. So, they’ll do a procedure to try to determine what’s causing the problem and we’ll go from there,” Bradley said last week.
Marshall-Rutty has made four appearances this year (three as a starter), and was named to the MLS Team of the Week after the first week of the campaign.
Bradley has converted Marshall-Rutty, naturally a winger, into a fullback this season following the losses of Kemar Lawrence (traded to Minnesota United), Auro Jr. (loaned to Santos FC of Brazil) and Justin Morrow (retirement).
CanWNT vs. Nigeria on Friday
Canada will face Nigeria on April 8 at Vancouver's BC Place and on April 11 at Langford’s Starlight Stadium as part of the team’s ongoing Celebration Tour in recognition of its gold medal victory at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Friday's game in Vancouver gives Canada Soccer the chance to celebrate Christine Sinclair’s world international goalscoring record in front of her hometown crowd. The celebration was originally planned for April 2020 with a game against Australia, but was postponed on account of the global pandemic.
All 22 members of Canada's gold-medal squad from the Tokyo Olympics have been included on Bev Priestman's roster for the Nigeria games, including veteran forward Adriana Leon who missed the Alan Clark Cup due to injury. Also included in this Canadian squad are Marie-Yasmine Alidou, Sabrina D’Angelo, Cloé Lacasse, Victoria Pickett, Sarah Stratigakis, Sura Yekka, and debutant Zoe Burns, who played for Canada at the recent Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship.
Canada and Nigeria have met three times, with the Reds earning a 2-1 win in a friendly on April 8, 2019 in Spain in their last meeting. Nigeria defeated Canada 1-0 during the group stage of the 2015 World Cup in Germany, and the teams played to a 3-3 draw in the first round of the 1995 World Cup in Sweden.
Canada is sixth in the latest FIFA world rankings released last week, 33 spots above Nigeria. The Canadian team sports a 10-4-6 record since Priestman’s first game in charge in February, 2021.
TFC vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday
Toronto FC makes a rare visit to Rio Tinto Stadium to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday (8:00 p.m. ET).
This will be the first meeting between the clubs since May 18, 2019 when TFC lost 3-0 in Sandy, Utah. The Reds gave up a goal in the 13th minute, and never recovered, as they were forced to play the final half hour with 10 men after Alejandro Pozuelo earned his second yellow card of the game.
Salt Lake (3-1-2) currently sits second in the Western Conference, but is winless in its last two games, and is coming off a 1-1 draw on the road against the Colorado Rapids. Salt Lake's attack has sputtered so far this year, with just seven goals through the first six games. But they've also just conceded five times and have recorded a pair of clean sheets, something Toronto has failed to do this season.
Salt Lake leads the all-time series against TFC with nine wins and six draws in 18 regular season meetings.
This is the only meeting between these two teams this season.
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Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
As much as coach and sporting director Bob Bradley had a hand in rebuilding Toronto FC this off-season, club president Bill Manning also played a huge role, while also leading the charge to sign Lorenzo Insigne.
In part 1 of TFC Republic's Q&A with Manning last week, he discussed where he thinks TFC sits after a month into the MLS season, he offers his evaluation of the job that Bradley has done thus far, he explains why it's been so important for Bradley to show a lot of faith in the team's youngsters, and more.
In part 2, Manning discusses Jozy Altidore's departure, the need for new players this summer, the possibility of re-signing Alejandro Pozuelo and Jonathan Osorio, and much more. Look for part 2 to be published in the coming days.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- My feature on Toronto FC midfielder Noble Okello.
- Peter Galindo's weekly tactical and analytical column returns after a bit of a hiatus, and takes a look at Luca Petrasso's performances thus far for TFC.
- A TFC notebook story following Tuesday's training session.
- My piece on Canadian women's team coach Bev Priestman and the upcoming games against Nigeria.
- My features on Canadian women's team players Desiree Scott and Cloé Lacasse.
- My piece on current Forge FC assistant coach (and former national team defender) David Edgar.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of TFC's game against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of the Canadian women's team game against Nigeria in Vancouver on Friday.
- And much more!
A quick note from the editor
TFC Republic is fast approaching its one-year anniversary on April 12, so I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everybody for their support. The website has been a great success, and I have all of you to thank for that.
The anniversary also means that a lot of you will start to receive an email notice about your yearly subscription coming to an end. I hope that you consider resubscribing for another year and supporting me in this venture so that I can continue to provide quality, independent journalism on the Toronto FC and Canadian soccer scene.
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.
(Top photo courtesy of torontofc.ca)