TFC NOTEBOOK: Insigne and Criscito join the club in training… Bono a no go… Pozuelo has a blast offensively

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There were Toronto FC fans at the BMO training ground on Friday to celebrate Canada Day with an Italian twist.

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The two Italian Serie A reinforcements signed by TFC this year – winger Lorenzo Insigne and left-back Domenico Criscito – were at the Training Ground. Criscito, 35, took to the pitch and trained with his new teammates for the first time while Insigne, 31, trained indoors in the gymnasium.

« Lorenzo is still working on the inside to make sure the calf (injury) return to play is done properly, » TFC coach Bob Bradley said. “It’s day to day. When players come halfway through the year, especially if they are carrying a minor injury, it is important to ensure that the return is very well managed. So we’re going to be above that and try to get things done in the smartest way. »

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The former Napoli and Italian national team captain withdrew from last month’s Finalissima at Wembley
Stadium because of a lower leg muscle injury, believed to be his calf.

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Both players came out and posed for photos before practice. A number of fans were also at the training ground. A group tied a Genoa flag to a nearby fence. Criscito played at Genoa from 2011 to 2022 with some time with Zenit Saint Petersburg. TFC hosts the Seattle Sounders (7W 7L 2D) Saturday night at BMO Field, though Insigne and Criscito are set to make their TFC debuts on July 9 when the Reds host the San Jose Earthquakes.

« It’s nice to have Mimmo (Criscito) on the pitch, » Bradley said. « The day before games are not intense training sessions but it’s the start of working with him, so it’s excellent. »

Criscito’s primary position is left-back, but he can also play as a centre-back and full-back. Wherever he plays, the Reds, who have conceded 32 goals in 17 games this season, can certainly use his help.

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« He gives us good versatility, » Bradley said. « Not only does he have experience with the national team, but he also played outside of Italy when he was at Zenit. So I think his understanding of when you come to a new league, to a new country, these challenges (it’s good). He’s doing well, his English is pretty good. And I think he’ll be a good example for a lot of players.

With the international trade window open, TFC have been working to bring former Toronto winger Richie Laryea back from Nottingham Forest on a loan deal, although TSN reported that clubs from Belgium, -Bas and the English championship are also interested in the Canadian international defender. Laryea moved to Forest this season but hasn’t played much. Nottingham were promoted to the Premier League at the end of the 2021-22 season.

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« We are actively looking for ways to improve our squad this summer, » Bradley said, adding there may be further international moves.

TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono says that during the limited time they have been in Toronto, the experience between Insigne and Criscito and the rest of the squad has been positive.

“Obviously it will take some time to adapt and integrate them into the group, but they both seem like good guys,” Bono said. « I know I can say for all of us that we’re really excited about them and can’t wait for them to be fully fit and help us out.

« We’ve watched them since we grew up watching the game. So we know what they look like as players,” Bono added. « (But) you really want to know who the man behind the shirt is. But they look like good guys. We hope they can fit in quickly and grow this culture that we started in the dressing room.

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Criscito speaks a little English although Insigne speaks very little. However, TFC midfielder Michael Bradley is said to be quite fluent in Italian (having played with Serie A clubs Chievo and Roma for three seasons) and coach Bob Bradley can speak the language to some extent. Reportedly, Carlos Salcedo also speaks some Italian, as well as some TFC staff. Bono, a native of Syracuse, NY, is of part Italian descent but admitted he doesn’t understand the language.

“American,” Bono replied with a laugh when asked if he spoke the language. « I don’t know any of my relatives who are still there (Italy). The recipe for the (pasta) sauce was passed down, but other than that I didn’t really learn much about the culture. No language, just recipes.

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Then again, as Bob Bradley said last week, football (soccer) is a universal language and the two Italians should have no problem assimilating into the team.


TFC attacking midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo created six chances for his teammates in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew, including providing the assist on Toronto’s only goal, scored by Jesus Jimenez. It was the seventh time Pozuelo had six or more shots in a game, no other Toronto player has had more than one such game since Pozuelo joined MLS in 2019.

Pozuelo, the 2020 MLS MVP, has really come back to his game this season after struggling with injuries and personal issues last year. The Sevilla native has bagged four goals and five assists in 15 appearances this season, improving his defensive game as well. His four goals have come in his last six games.

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