Insigne Scored! That’s his second goal of the season – How did it happen?

Insigne and Bernardeschi on the pitch at the same time – can good things continue to happen?

Saturday night’s match saw Toronto FC travel to the Twin Cities to face Minnesota United. It is the first time TFC has travelled to Allianz Field – another soccer-specific stadium that looks nicer than BMO field. Apparently there’s lots of washroom facilities – unlike some sections in TFC’s home. 

The traditional formula for success, especially in travel-heavy MLS, is to win at home and aim for a draw on the road. With that idea, teams would have a 2 points per game record, which is good enough to be leading the Supporters’ Shield race. The issue with Toronto FC this season is dropping too many points at home. Perhaps an away draw was not the worst outcome. A 1.50 points per game would have Toronto in 5th place in the Eastern Conference at the halfway mark in the season.  It was a frustrating result as TFC was leading for 90 minutes after Insigne’s goal. 

Here’s the goal (shoutout to Eric Giacometti – thanks for reading!):

The Buildup

54th Minute – Amie Mabika comes off of the pitch with a bloody lip:

55th Minute – Matt Hedges goes down with a lower body injury (probably a hamstring pull):

57th Minute – Sigurd Rosted is forced into action after Hedges’ injury. 

This series of events forced a formation change – Mark-Anthony Kaye dropped into a bit of a deeper position – almost playing the role of the centre back. While Mabika came back into the game around (with a jersey without a number!), the loss of Hedges changed the formation. Federico Bernardeschi moved into the centre of the pitch.

Minnesota had a throw deep in the Toronto end of the pitch. Franco Fragapane put it into play for Zarek Valentin, who promptly returns it to Fragapane: 

Fragapane looks inside for Hassani Dotson, who turns towards goal. Mark-Anthony Kaye steps up and intercepts the ball:

Kaye spots Bernardeschi and lays the ball off to the Italian winger, who turns upfield:

The Goal

Bernadeschi decides to take the ball and run with it, leaving multiple Minnesota players behind. He certainly blew past Minnesota midfielder Dotson:

Bernardeschi passes to CJ Sapong. Let’s give Sapong the benefit of the doubt – it wasn’t a great pass, so Sapong did the best with the ball and sent it back to Bernardeschi, who sends it out to Richie Laryea:

Richie finds an opening between the defensive and midfield line and picks out Lorenzo Insigne. Insigne finishes it off with a touch past Minnesota keeper Dayne St. Clair:

What Went Right

Necessity breeds Invention – or adaptation. After the injuries to Mabika and Hedges, Bob Bradley was forced to reconsider Toronto’s formation. While Mabika was off the pitch receiving treatment, Mark-Anthony Kaye dropped to a deeper position. Federico Bernardeschi dropped into a central midfield role and took the ball right down the middle of the pitch. With Insigne on the left, Laryea on the right, and Sapong in the middle, the defense was stretched across the pitch. It seemed to work as Bernardeschi unlocked the midfield with his forward movement. Richie Laryea and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty are capable of playing on the right side of the pitch, regardless of depth. Their athleticism allows Bernardeschi to move to more of a central position to command attention from the defense.

What Needs to Happen Next

One game does not solve the problems that are affecting this team. However, there are some positive signs that should provide some idea what Toronto FC will look like in the second half of the season, especially when more players return from injuries.

Should Toronto FC’s No. 10 playing as a No. 10? Well – Bernardeschi is capable of it. He’s played all over the pitch before coming to Toronto, so there should be little question of his adaptability in a somewhat unfamiliar position. Also, there is a scenario that sees Bernardeschi shifting back out to the wing when Jonathan Osorio becomes healthy. Osorio is expected to return to the team around the middle of June, which should help with the depth in the midfield and Toronto’s attack.

Perhaps it’s worth considering a formation change during the game to reflect each situation. For instance, the match against the Chicago Fire last week could have used some sort of different approach:

The 4-3-3 formation often becomes too predictable when Bernardeschi and Insigne are playing without the supporting cast of offensive threats. The match against Chicago was too formulaic and predictable. While Bernardeschi and Insigne tried to shift around the pitch, it was easy to defend against these players without anyone else garnering attention on the pitch. Also, the first half against Minnesota was much of the same formula – not a lot of quality chances to score.

There are some encouraging signs from some of the younger players on the squad.  Players like Deandre Kerr, Kosi Thompson, Kobe Franklin and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty are now getting meaningful minutes and providing viable options for Bob Bradley.  Changing the formation to adapt to the strengths of much-needed substitutions is what needs to be implemented for the rest of the season.