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 set up its 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...
Bob Bradley out as coach and sporting director
The Bob Bradley era is over.
On Monday morning, Toronto FC announced that Bradley had been relieved of his duties as head coach and sporting director, effective immediately. Assistant coach Mike Sorber was also fired.
"Bob has been a consummate professional with Toronto FC and we thank him for his passion and tireless work during his time here. We are all disappointed that we were not able to achieve the results we expected," club president Bill Manning said in a media release.
TFC hired Bradley on Nov. 24, 2021, and the team compiled a 14-26-19 record during his tenure, winning the Covid-delayed 2020 Canadian Championship final.
Terry Dunfield has been appointed interim head coach of Toronto FC. A former Canadian international, Dunfield spent a portion of his playing career with TFC. Dunfield assumes the role of interim head coach from his current role as under-17 coach with TFC's youth academy.
NOTE: I'll have more on this breaking news later today.
TFC licking their wounds after another road loss
Toronto FC took a surprising early lead on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, but it couldn't defend its advantage en route to a disappointing 2-1 loss against the New England Revolution. Deandre Kerr scored his third goal of the season off a setup from Lorenzo Insigne.
Toronto (3-7-10) is now winless in five games (with two straight losses) and is still looking to record its first road win since last August, having taken just four out of a possible 30 points away from BMO Field this year.
Once again, Italian DP Federico Bernardeschi failed to make an impression and was subbed out after 45 minutes as he was suffering from back pain and couldn't continue on, according to coach Bob Bradley. The former Juventus star has now gone without a goal in 14 games in all competitions for Toronto. The last time he scored was on April 1.
There's no escaping the fact that 90-minute performances continue to be the Holy Grail for TFC in 2023. Saturday’s setback was just another example. At this point, you’d have thought they’d have figured things out, even with all the injuries they’ve dealt with this season.
The loss against third-place New England (10-3-6) ended a challenging stretch in which Toronto played the top three teams in the MLS table. But things won’t get much easier for TFC from here. Their next four games before the month-long break for the Leagues Cup are against opponents who all sit above them in the standing. Unless the Reds can win at least two of those contests, it’s impossible to envision them making a late season run to qualify for the playoffs.
"When I look at this league, it's such a competitive league that anyone could beat anyone, and yeah, our last couple games, we played against the top teams, but we weren't out of our element. We can play with these teams, and it just comes down to minor details and minor moments in the game where we might switch off a bit, and those goals have been punishing us. But we haven't played these last three games, and we're like, oh, these teams are such a big step, big level ahead of us," Kerr said after the New England game.
"So, we know we can play with anyone. We know in the league anyone can beat anyone. So, just on to the next and focus on who we have to beat next."
CanMNT at the Concacaf Gold Cup
Fresh off its appearance in the finals of the Concacaf Nations League, the Canadian men's team now turns its focus towards the Concacaf Gold Cup, which kicked off on Saturday and runs until July 16. Canada opens Group D play at the Gold Cup vs. Guadeloupe on June 27 at BMO Field before facing Guatemala (July 1) and Cuba (July 4) in Houston.
John Herdman won’t admit it publicly because the last thing he wants to do is give Canada’s first-round opponents any extra motivation, but the group stage draw couldn’t have worked out any better for his team. All three games are very winnable against much weaker opponents, none of whom are ranked in the top 100 in the world. Canada is 47th in the FIFA rankings, well ahead of Guatemala (No. 166) and Cuba (No. 165). Guadeloupe is unranked because it is not a member of FIFA.
In total, 14 of the 23 players who were part of the Concacaf Nations League team have been called for duty at the Gold Cup. The absentees are veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson (who retired after the Nations League), and six of the team’s more high-profile players: Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Jonathan David (Lille), Cyle Larin (Club Brugge), Alistair Johnston (Celtic), Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge), Ismaël Koné (Watford), Stephen Eustáquio (FC Porto) and Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor FC).
Davies and the rest of the absentees need a rest ahead of their respective European club campaigns, especially after competing at a winter FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Hence, Herdman’s decision not to bring them to the Gold Cup. But omitting them from his latest squad also gives Herdman a chance to experiment and look at some youngsters and deepen his player pool.
Some of the prospects named to Herdman's roster who could get opportunities at the Gold Cup include a host of uncapped players: goalkeeper Tom McGill (Brighton & Hove Albion), defenders Dominick Zator (Korona Kielce), Moïse Bombito (Colorado Rapids) and Zac McGraw (Columbus Crew), midfielder Victor Loturi (Ross County) and Ali Ahmed (Vancouver Whitecaps), and forward Jacen Russell-Rowe (Columbus). Winger Jacob Shaffelburg (four caps) could also get some playing time based on his solid 2023 MLS season with Nashville SC.
Herdman has still managed to draft in a number of European-based players for the Gold Cup, including goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade), defender Steven Vitória (Chaves), winger Junior Hoilett (Reading FC), and midfielders (Jayden Nelson (Rosenborg BK) and Liam Fraser (K.M.S.K. Deinze).
Toronto FC’s Richie Laryea and Jonathan Osorio, who both started in Canada’s loss vs. the U.S. in the Concacaf Nations League final, have been recalled for the Gold Cup. Zachary Brault-Guillard (CF Montreal) is also on the Gold Cup squad.
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TFC vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday
Toronto FC returns to action when it hosts Real Salt Lake on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET/Apple TV and TSN).
Salt Lake (7-7-6) sits sixth in the Western Conference table (13th overall) and is coming off of a 2-2 draw at home against Minnesota United on the weekend. That result extended the club's unbeaten run to five games (three wins). Salt Lake hasn't lost since a 3-2 setback at home to the LA Galaxy on May 31.
The Utah-based club found itself down 2-0 against Minnesota after 39 minutes before scoring two second-half goals, including Justen Glad's equalizer in the 98th minute, to rescue a point at America First Field.
Sixteen of Salt Lake's 25 goals this season (64 per cent) have come from four players who have each scored four times: Damir Kreilach, Danny Musovski, Pablo Ruiz and Jefferson Savarino.
These teams previously squared off on April 9, 2022 when they played to a 2-2 draw in Utah. Then-rookie midfielder Kosi Thompson and fellow teenager Jayden Nelson both scored their first career MLS goals for Toronto. Nelson’s spectacular long-range strike tied things up in the 79th minute and allowed the Reds to earn a share of the points in a tightly-contested, pulsating match.
“Going through the ranks with [Jayden] and just being able to share the night with him, and score two incredible goals, it’s amazing. It’s an incredible feeling,” Thompson said.
Real Salt Lake leads the all-time series against Toronto with nine wins and seven draws in 18 regular season meetings. These two teams won’t face each other again this season.
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Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
Hugo Mbongue is one of the many former youth academy players who moved on to TFC 2 before graduating to the senior team, having signed his first MLS contract last September. Mbongue, who is Ralph Priso's young brother, has had difficulties breaking through under Bob Bradley, but the 18-year-old is hopeful he can eventually make an impact for Toronto FC. I recently sat down for a one-on-one chat with the young forward to get his perspective on his time at TFC thus far. Look for my feature story in the coming days.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- A video blog analyzing the Bob Bradley news.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of TFC's home game against Real Salt Lake.
- The return of my TFC "random thoughts" column.
- A TFC notebook column.
- The weekly TFC injury report.
- Our mid-season report on TFC 2 with James Grossi.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's Gold Cup match vs. Guadeloupe.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's Gold Cup match vs. Guatemala.
- 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.
(Top photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)
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