- Toronto FC 2 (Insigne 49’; Bernardeschi 66’), Charlotte FC 0
- Insigne scores 4th goal, Bernardeschi 5th of campaign
- TFC records only their 3rd clean sheet in MLS in 2022
Toronto FC’s Italian connection keeps paying off big dividends.
Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi both scored highlight-reel goals and collected assists to lift TFC to a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Charlotte FC on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.
In earning its third shutout and second road win of the MLS campaign, Toronto (9-13-6) bolstered its playoff chances by leapfrogging Charlotte (10-16-2) into 10th spot in the Eastern Conference and moving to within three points of the seventh-place Columbus Crew (8-6-12).
With only six games left in the season, this was one that the Reds absolutely had to win. While it was far from pretty, aside from the goals by its two DPs, Toronto must be credited for its defensive solidity and game management. In particular, centre back Chris Mavinga had a strong night in marshalling a back line that gave very little away.
You can subscribe to TFC Republic by CLICKING HERE, or by clicking on the subscribe button on the home page. A monthly subscription costs just $8, while a yearly subscription is $50 (a savings of 48%).
Coach Bob Bradley lauded his team’s resilience after a somewhat flat opening 45 minutes.
“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,” Bradley told reporters after the game.
He later added: “When you’re missing important players and everybody is called on, you really see how the group rallies in moments like that. So, that becomes what you need as you try to put a real run together down the stretch.”
It was a sentiment echoed by goalkeeper Alex Bono, who looked sharp in a bounce-back effort after conceding soft goals in each of TFC's last two games.
"I thought we battled really well today in a tough environment with some hot weather... I give the guys a lot of credit for the fight they put in today. It's not easy to win on the road in this league, so for us to come [here] and get three points is really exciting," offered Bono, who kept his 35th career clean sheet in all competitions for Toronto.
How good has the Italian contingent been for Toronto since its arrival in MLS in July? Consider this: Bernardeschi (five goals, three assists), Insigne (four goals, two assists) and Domenico Criscito (one goal) have been involved in 13 of Toronto’s last 15 goals in league play, including the last seven in a row. If not for their trio of Serie A stars, the Reds would likely have already been eliminated from playoff contention. Instead, their post-season hopes remain alive, although TFC still has plenty of work to do to climb above the playoff line.
"They're good players. I still think they're getting sharper and fitter by the day, so they're always capable of making big plays," Bradley stated.
Bono smiled when asked in the post-match press conference about the stellar performances of TFC's two Italian DPs on the night.
"Nothing surprises anymore with those guys. I've seen enough in training now to know that anything is possible when they get out on that field, and it's a delight to see the things they keep pulling out... It's a joy to share the field with them and it's exciting to be a part of it," Bono said.
Saturday’s kickoff at Bank of America Stadium was originally scheduled for 7:08 p.m. ET, but was delayed by 62 minutes due to lightning in the local area.
Bradley made one lineup change from last week's 2-1 road loss in Miami, giving a start to Deandre Kerr in place of club top scorer Jonathan Osorio, who did not travel with the team due to illness. It was Kerr’s first start since July 16, but he only lasted 37 minutes due to a lower-body injury and was replaced by Kosi Thompson.
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (lower body) missed his seventh straight match for the Reds, while goalkeeper Quentin Westberg (rib injury) was absent for an eighth consecutive game. Sidelined for most of the season due to injury, Midfielder Noble Okello was on TFC’s gameday roster for the first time since April 9.
The first half was a pretty even affair with few moments of danger. Charlotte’s Benjamin Bender caused a few problems down both flanks with his probing runs with and without the ball, while Bernardeschi looked lively in attack on the right side and kept the hosts’ defence honest.
The lone quality scoring chance of the opening stanza fell to Charlotte in the 17th minute. Bender chipped a lovely cross from the left side into the box for Kerwin Vargas, whose powerful and audacious back-heel attempt from 16 yards out was tipped over the crossbar by Bono.
Charlotte should have opened the scoring right after the halftime break. A poor headed clearance by Richie Laryea allowed Karol Swiderski to thread a pass to Kamil Józwiak, who broke in on goal but fired his shot into the side netting.
Moments later, the Reds opened the scoring with their first shot on target. Bernardeschi whipped a corner kick to the back post where an unmarked Insigne hit his shot first time into the ground that bounced up and snuck in just underneath the crossbar.
Bender nearly equalized in the 65th minute when Lukas MacNaughton was caught in possession while trying to play out from the back, but Bono made an excellent save on Andre Shinyashiki as Charlotte broke on the counter.
Charlotte paid for its wastefulness almost immediately. Insigne floated a cross-field ball to Bernardeschi who controlled it with his chest, and then waltzed into the box and chipped a shot just inside the far post while being surrounded by a pair of Charlotte defenders.
NOTES: Toronto swept the season series against Charlotte, having earned a 4-0 win over the expansion club last month at BMO Field… Toronto FC returns home to host the LA Galaxy (Aug. 31) and CF Montreal (Sept. 4). The game against LA will be Greg Vanney's return to BMO Field for the first time since he stepped down as TFC coach on Dec. 1, 2020.
(Top photo courtesy of torontofc.ca)
TFC Republic is a paid-subscription website. All of the content at TFC Republic is behind a paywall, and you need to be a subscriber to access it. It costs only $8 for a one-month subscription, or $50 for a full year (prices include 13% GST/HST). What a great deal, eh? Don't miss out, and order your TFC Republic subscription today!