Italian stars learning on the job as Toronto FC complete marathon week in MLS – Toronto
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Major League Soccer learning curve continues for Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
The Italian stars played their first three games for Toronto FC, two of them on artificial turf, and covered more than 8,000 kilometers this week as the team traveled from BMO Field in Vancouver and back before flying to Boston.
Goaltender Alex Bono called it a « trial by fire » for the two new Designated Players.
« I would like to tell them that they saw some of the toughest conditions, with the flights and the fields, » added Bono, who marked his 150th appearance in all competitions for Toronto. « I want to tell them it’s better. So stick with it.
Toronto head home after picking up a rare road point on Saturday with a 0-0 draw against the New England Revolution. TFC had a chance to win but were thwarted when Djordje Petrovic stopped Insigne from the penalty spot in the 81st minute.
The six-foot-four Serbian keeper dove to his right, putting a hand on the ball.
« A nice save, » Bono said. “He was out of breath. He read well. Lorenzo framed it and made a save. What are you going to do? »
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The result made it a 1-1-1 week for TFC after Tuesday’s 5-3 penalty shootout loss to Vancouver against the Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship final and a 4-0 league loss to the Charlotte FC last Saturday which saw Insigne and Bernardeschi turn heads on their MLS debuts.
Bernardeschi had a goal and an assist while Insigne had an assist in the win at Charlotte.
Toronto (6-12-5) remain winless away in the league this season (0-7-4), with just four points from a possible 33. On a positive note, Saturday marked a second straight clean sheet for Toronto, which ended a 29-game championship streak without a shutout when it shut out Charlotte.
New England (6-7-9) saw their winless streak increase to six (0-2-4) while extending their home unbeaten streak to eight games (3-0-5). The Revs went six or more consecutive games (0-6-3) without a win from July to September 2018 under former coach Brad Friedel.
Referee Ismir Pekmic pointed the penalty spot in the 75th minute after Toronto substitute Deandre Kerr went down as Matt Polster tried to collect the ball just inside the box. Insigne waited to kick as Canadian video assistant referee Carol Anne Chenard controlled the play.
Pekmic was called up to the pitch monitor but didn’t change his mind, much to New England’s annoyance.
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Newly signed Revs Designated Player Giacomo Vrioni, making his home debut off the bench, had a chance to win it in stoppage time, but his deflection from inside was wide.
Toronto outshot New England 15-13 (3-2 on shots on target) and had nine corners to the Revs’ three. Insigne had six of Toronto’s shots, three of which were on target.
Both teams appeared out of their game in the first half, with stray passes and missing finishing touches.
Entering the weekend, 13th-placed Toronto was three places and four points behind New England in the Eastern Conference _ and six points from a playoff spot.
Insigne, Bernardeschi and fellow Italian Domenico Criscito all left for Toronto. Insigne and Bernardeschi showed flashes of their skills on the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium, but overall it was a frustrating night for the star duo.
Still, Bernardeschi showed his class in the 58th minute, with a long-range left-footed shot out of nowhere that rattled the goalpost as Petrovic watched.
Insigne also went close in the 44th minute but his shot from close range was stopped by Petrovic after Bernardeschi found his compatriot in the penalty area with a nice diagonal ball. It was Toronto’s only shot on target in the half.
Bernardeschi came off in the 68th minute. Four minutes later, Insigne’s deflected shot from outside the box forced Petrovic into an acrobatic one-handed save.
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Toronto coach Bob Bradley believes Insigne and Bernardeschi are doing just fine, given the circumstances.
« It’s so important to remind everyone that for Lorenzo and for Federico it’s always like pre-season, » he said. “There were so few training sessions — full regular training sessions — that we had. The day before the match or a recovery day (after the match), these are not real training sessions.
“These guys are trying to get started, to understand the league, to get a feel for things, to travel, to different types of surfaces. It’s not easy,” he added. « I really appreciate how these guys are doing it. I think they see what we’re trying to do and feel good about it. Those are things we want to build on.
Criscito, 35, has also lived up to his bill, ensuring a consistent presence at left-back.
Toronto also got strong performances from centre-back Lukas MacNaughton and captain Michael Bradley, Bob’s son.
Saturday’s game featured two of the league’s most successful coaches at New England’s Bruce Arena and Toronto’s Bradley, who entered the game with 246 and 188 regular-season wins, respectively.
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Both return. Bradley was an assistant coach under Arena at the University of Virginia in 1983-84 and helped Arena at DC United in 1996-97. They also worked with the US Olympic team.
Chris Mavinga and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty replaced Toronto, replacing Shane O’Neill and Kosi Thompson. Toronto were without injured goalkeeper Quentin Westberg and midfielders Mark-Anthony Kaye and Noble Okello.
New England star forward Gustavo Bou, an Argentine designated player who leads the team with seven goals, suffered a leg injury.
New England midfielder Emmanuel Boateng came on in the 69th minute, making his 150th regular season appearance in MLS.
Former Toronto striker Jozy Altidore, who signed with New England after the TFC bought out his contract in February, joined Puebla this week on loan until January.
TFC, who had won their two previous visits to Foxborough, are now 4-10-6 at Gillette Stadium.
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