Talk about a special set of debuts for Toronto as Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne helped lead Toronto to a 4-0 win over Charlotte on Saturday, July 23rd. Toronto also got great production elsewhere as well as Michael Bradley picked up a brace, and Jonathan Osorio added a goal as well.
Toronto still sits 13th in the East (with 22 points through 22 matches), but the win helped trim the gap down with the team's ahead of them. Toronto is now just 6 points back of the playoff line, and are just 8 points back of 5th. The performance on Saturday also will boost the optimism around the club.
Osorio scored a bit of a lucky goal to lead things off in the 4th minute. Toronto had been threatening early. This lead to Charlotte attempting to clear the ball out of the box, but the ball took a deflection off of the back of Osorio and went over the Charlotte keeper's head and into the net. The old saying goes "better to be lucky than good". Well, Osorio is already quite good, so I'm not sure what that means for this goal, but it did put Toronto up 1-0.
Then Bradley doubled the Toronto lead in the 10th minute with a header to make it 2-0. Bernardeschi was taking a corner and played the ball into the front post. Bradley made a run to said front post and was able to expertly guide the header backwards across the goal and in.
Then came the special debut moment for Bernardeschi as he scored from outside the box in the 31st minute to push TFC's lead to 3-0. Mark-Anthony Kaye had been dribbling the ball forward. He then played the ball to Bernardeschi who took a touch to steady the ball. He then sent a low shot in from about 25 yards out with his left foot which beat the keeper and ignite the crowd.
The final goal (and 2nd goal of Bradley's brace) came in the 2nd minute of 1st half stoppage time as Bradley capped off a fantastic team goal for TFC. Osorio won the ball in the midfield, he played it to Kaye who one-touched the ball to Insigne who played a fantastic backheel to a streaking Bradley. Bradley then dribbled through two defenders and slightly chipped the ball over the keeper and into the net to put the stamp on a dominant 4-0 1st half.
Toronto wasn't nearly as threatening in the 2nd half, but they were also already up 4-0 (so they likely weren't going to be as aggressive as you would normally see). They more or less just saw the match out from there.
Charlotte held possession in the match by a very slight margin of 51.6%-48.4%.
Toronto led the way in shots 14-10. Toronto was slightly more efficient in their passing as well as they completed 82.1% of their passes compared to Charlotte's 81.8%.
Charlotte actually held the edge in shots on target 5-4, but Toronto was extremely clinical in their chances (scoring on every shot on target they had).
TFC held the edge in Expected Goals 1.4-0.7.
Bernardeschi and Insigne both only played the 1st half, which makes since as they are both just joining the team and the match was already well in hand.
In his 45 minutes, Bernardeschi scored the goal, added the assist, completed 68.8% of his passes, made 2 key passes, and had 0.4 XG+A (Expected Goals plus Assists).
Insigne led the team in XG+A with 0.48 in his 45 minutes. He had the assist, completed 91.3% of his passes, and also led the team in key passes (with 4).
Kaye also continued to play well since joining the team several matches ago. In this one: he had 2 assists, completed 90.7% of his passes, and made a key pass.
Osorio scored the goal, completed 88.5% of his passes, had 2 successful tackles, led the team in duels won, and led the team with 4 fouls drawn.
Bradley picked up the brace with 2 goals, completed 87.9% of his passes, and was near the top of the team in duels won.
Domenico Criscito also had an under the radar quality match. He completed 83% of his passes, made 2 key passes (tied for 2nd on the team), and was also 2nd on the team in fouls drawn with 3.
Newly signed defender Doneil Henry also made his Toronto debut in the match as he entered at halftime. He went 17/17 on passing (a perfect 100%) in his debut. Another quality debut for TFC.
Alex Bono made 5 saves in goal for Toronto en route to a clean sheet. He wasn't overly threatened throughout most of the match, but did make a nice save in the 34th minute in which he blocked a header from short distance. He also made a nice diving save on a shot from outside the box in the 76th minute. Bono has now started back-to-back matches in goal as he attempts to lock his starting goalkeeper role back down. On that note, shockingly, this was just Toronto's 2nd clean sheet in their last 52 MLS matches.
While Toronto still has a ways to go in terms of reaching the playoffs, this win definitely should have fans and the club feeling strong. If Bernardeschi and Insigne continue to give the squad this kind of boost, and the rest of the players continue to play well then Toronto might just be a team to watch out for in terms of making a big charge up the table late in the season. When you bring it two players of the caliber of Bernardeschi and Insigne then they play how they did in their debuts, it definitely deservedly provides a good bit of optimism.
Next up for Toronto, they will travel to take on the New England Revolution on Saturday, July 30th.