Monday, July 15, 2024

Toronto FC gets first win of MLS Season

BMO Field, Toronto

Canada’s Toronto FC finally got into the win column Saturday, after a nine-game winless streak, blanking Inter Miami 2-0 on a cold and chilly night at BMO Field.  

Second-half goals by Canada’s own Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye helped Toronto FC(1-1-2) change their fortunes in the win column after a season-opening 3-2 loss at D.C. United and 1-1 draw at Atlanta and against Columbus.

“It was an important victory tonight,” Toronto coach Bob Bradley said of the win. “The beginnings of seasons in Canada is difficult, between weather, between fields. Look, it is what it is, but cold-weather teams have it a little bit harder … There are challenges early in the year.”

For home boys, that means training on artificial turf under a bubble. And playing games in ice hockey-type weather.

The temperature at kickoff was a frigid -4 Celsius, feeling like -13 C with the wind chill at the lakefront stadium. In comparison, it was 28 C (feeling like 30 C) at Inter Miami’s Fort Lauderdale home.

The chilly conditions did not deter Toronto centre-backs Matt Hedges and Sigurd Rosted from wearing short-sleeved jerseys. Or the announced crowd of 20,701 who braved the elements.

“Especially with the way this season has begun, this win is huge,” said Osorio, who has now scored in all 11 of his seasons with Toronto. “It’s huge for us, it’s huge for the fans — especially for the ones coming and braving this cold and being there supporting us. It’s important that we deliver a performance like this for them because they deserve it for the energy that they gave us during this game. And for even showing up in difficult temperatures.”

Toronto snapped a nine-game winless streak (0-6-3) dating back to Aug. 27 (2-0 at Charlotte FC). Its last home win was Aug. 13 (3-1 over Portland).

Saturday’s game saw father-and-son combinations on both teams.

Harvey Neville, the 20-year-old son of Miami coach Phil Neville, lined up at right fullback in his first Major League Soccer. Captain Michael Bradley, the 35-year-old son of Bob Bradley, made his 295th appearance for TFC in all competitions.

Babe wake up, first Fede 🗣️ CAMMONNN of the season@fbernardeschi | #TFCLive— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) March 19, 2023

Toronto went ahead in the 48th minute on a pretty play finished by Osorio. Kaye found Federico Bernardeschi on the edge of the penalty box and the Italian waited for fullback Richie Laryea to fly past him before feeding him the ball. Laryea raked a low cross across the goal and Osorio contorted his body to fight off a defender and flick the ball in for his 59th career goal for TFC.

Miami (2-2-0) had conceded just once in its first three games — an own goal in last week’s 1-0 loss at New York City FC.

Kaye added to the lead in the 69th minute, redirecting a Bernardeschi free kick for his second of the season. The ball appeared to bounce in off his shoulder as he tried for a header in traffic at the far post.

“Fede’s deliveries are very good,” said Kaye. “I was just trying to get into a good position to redirect the ball back into a dangerous spot. The dangerous spot happened to be the back of the net, so I’ll take it.”  

Toronto outshot Miami 12-9 (6-3 in shots on target), a marked improvement over the first three games when it was outshot 43-18 (15-10 in shots on target). The 18 shots represent the fewest by a team in the first three games of the season since at least 2010, according to the league.

Injuries to key personnel have denied Bob Bradley a chance to field his first-choice team. Toronto had led in its previous three outings but was unable to hold out for the win.

Italian star winger Lorenzo Insigne (groin) and Norwegian forward Adama Diomande (hamstring) remained sidelined for Toronto. Defender Shane O’Neill, who has had such issues before, was out with headaches.

Things get worse next week with Toronto losing Laryea, Osorio, Kaye and forward Ayo Akinola to Canada for CONCACAF Nations League matches, meaning further roster holes for an away game at San Jose. Backup goalkeeper Tomas Romero is leaving to join El Salvador.

Akinola came in off the bench in the 61st minute after sitting out last week’s game having tweaked his hamstring in Atlanta the previous week.

The injury list has heaped responsibility on Bernardeschi, who had accounted for two of Toronto’s four goals before Saturday. The Italian had moments of real class Saturday, driving the Toronto attack.

Bradley went with the same starting 11 he used against Columbus.

Miami got some unwelcome injury news of its own this week with Brazilian defensive midfielder Gregore, the team captain, expected to miss six months after undergoing surgery on a foot injury in a challenge by NYCFC’s Matias Pellegrini.

U.S. international defender DeAndre Yedlin did not make the trip from Florida, staying home for the birth of his child.

Miami arrived at BMO Field with a five-game win streak over the local lads since losing their first meeting in 2020. The five TFC losses equal Toronto’s longest losing streak against an MLS opponent (Seattle, 2010-13).

It’s been an impressive start for Miami, which opened with a pair of 2-0 home wins over CF Montreal and Philadelphia before losing at NYCFC.

Toronto’s Hedges made his 300th career MLS regular-season start, with 296 of those coming with his previous team FC Dallas.