The two Italian wingers have been a breath of fresh air to watch with TFC, especially after an underwhelming first four and a half months in MLS where head coach Bob Bradley had to play a number of younger players in starting roles.
The Reds’ MLS record leading up to the July 23rd match against Charlotte was 5-3-12. Since then, Toronto have won three, drawn twice and lost once. They also lost the Canadian Championship final against Vancouver in the midst of a busy schedule.
Since Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi joined the club, they have started every match and raised the level of play for their teammates, while bringing intensity to both training and games. I’m going to assess their goal contributions during that stretch of games.
July 23rd vs. Charlotte FC at BMO Field
Both Italians made their debuts for the club against Charlotte, a game which culminated in a dominant 4-0 victory for Toronto. From the first whistle, it was evident that every TFC player was giving 110% in this match, dominating possession for long spells and creating many chances. The Reds scored four goals in a first half for the first time in club history, and 45 minutes was all the time that Federico and Lorenzo needed to make an impact - Bernardeschi scored one and assisted one, while Insigne’s play resulted in an assist for him.
A corner kick from Bernardeschi found his captain Michael Bradley, and the American’s glancing header found the back of the net at the far post. Although Bernardeschi slipped while taking the corner, Bradley made the effort to get to the front post as he got onto the end of the cross. That left foot from Berna is something that TFC fans began to know and love.
In my opinion, simple goals are often the most enjoyable to watch. Mark-Anthony Kaye saw space and dribbled into it before passing to Bernardeschi, the Italian winger looked up at the net and then unleashed a low strike into the bottom corner. Bernardeschi reminds me of Sebastian Giovinco in the sense where he’s not afraid to take shots whenever he sees half an opportunity - TFC lacked that tenacity in the first half of the season.
Everything about this play leading up to a Michael Bradley goal was magnifico: from Jonathan Osorio winning the ball back in determined fashion, to Insigne’s backheel flick to the finish itself. The skill of TFC players involved in this goal was so fun to watch.
July 26th vs. Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place
A cup final just three days later was beckoning, a chance for Toronto FC to win their ninth Canadian Championship in club history, and possibly to win two Can Champ’s in the same calendar year. Playing on turf is never easy, and former TFC Designated Players have suffered injuries after matches on artificial surfaces. Although the night ended in a disappointing loss on penalty kicks, there were two positive takeaways from that night: the star players remained healthy, and Federico Bernardeschi produced another moment of magic.
August 6th vs. Nashville SC at GEODIS Park
This 4-3 victory had a few milestones: let’s go through them:
- TFC’s first road win of the season, the last one came on July 24th, 2021 in Chicago against the Fire
- The first time that Nashville conceded four goals at home
- Last but definitely not least, Lorenzo Insigne’s first goal in a Toronto FC kit
Not a lot to say about this one, other than the fact that we know how capable Berna is at scoring from 12 yards out - considering he scored two important penalties for Italy at Euro 2020 (both in penalty shootouts against Spain and England respectively).
Speaking of Euro 2020, Insigne scored a very similar goal to the ones he netted against Turkey and Belgium during that tournament. What I love about this goal is that he caught two Nashville players sleeping and dribbled past them en route to rocketing a shot that beat goalkeeper Joe Willis at his near post.
August 13th vs. Portland Timbers at BMO Field
The Reds took all three points from this crucial inter-conference matchup. Richie Laryea was reintroduced to the Toronto faithful as he played his first match back home since signing on loan from Nottingham Forest. Bernardeschi scored his third goal in TFC colours.
Insigne’s first goal at BMO was one to remember, an impressive finish by the Neapolitan winger.
This goal secured the victory for TFC, and the man from Carrara showed a bit more of his outgoing personality during the celebration.
August 17th vs. New England Revolution at BMO Field
This game was a six-pointer because of each club’s respective positions in the Eastern Conference at the time. TFC arguably should have won, but settled for a 2-2 draw.
Another game, another Bernardeschi penalty converted - he became the first player in Toronto FC history to score in his first three MLS home games.
Also, massive shoutout to Domenico Criscito for salvaging a point this game with an insane volley. The Italian defender has been very consistent since joining the club in early July, and has been a leader and a calming figure in the squad.
August 20th vs. Inter Miami at DRV PNK Stadium
This game was the first loss the Reds suffered in MLS since the two Italian wingers debuted, the team was on a very solid run of form until a 2-1 defeat in Miami.
Lore saw Mimmo last match and said let me try ♂️ pic.twitter.com/xguxGdtPsp— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) August 21, 2022
If you weren’t impressed by Criscito’s world class strike against New England, this goal should do the trick. This finish from Insigne speaks to his immense quality to create something out of nothing.
In the past month, Toronto FC has picked up 11 points from a possible 18 - a respectable run of form. Imagine what this team can accomplish with a complete preseason, along with playing a full season together. Both Insigne and Bernardeschi spoke about the project that President Bill Manning proposed to them, it’s a project for years to come and the potential for success is definitely visible within the next few seasons.