It’s been a long time coming!
Toronto FC put an end to their 10-game losing streak in style on Wednesday night, putting away the Philadelphia Union 3-1 at BMO Field.
Deandre Kerr got the nod up top for TFC and popped up with a goal and assist in the contest, swinging the match in favour of the hosts on two occasions as the Reds picked up their first win under interim head coach Terry Dunfield.
“We kept getting kicked in the balls and just kept going,” said a jubilant Dunfield after the long overdue celebration. “It was just cool to see it come together, and yeah, I just never really questioned our work. We just kept going. Yeah, just so proud.”
With incoming bench boss John Herdman in attendance, the Reds really came out to play for the first time in months, with a number of players maybe looking to make a good impression in front of their soon-to-be leader.
Something that has alluded TFC since Dunfield assumed charge on an interim basis has been the ability to take a lead. The Reds did just that against Jim Curtin’s Union with Kerr feeding Lorenzo Insigne in the 23rd minute for the Italian’s first goal since June 10.
Both Insigne and his compatriot Federico Bernardeschi were integral in the positive performance, with the two Designated Players playing up to their title, something that hasn’t quite been the case for most of 2023. On Wednesday, TFC got the most of both wingers in transition with each using their vision and quick feet to create danger in the opposition penalty area.
“At 1-1 Lorenzo is getting the guys going,” Dunfield said. “I think he’s learning how to be a superstar in the league and how to be a top teammate and I think today we saw a lot of that.
“We’re very lucky to have a player of his calibre. It’s been a pleasure working with him.”
Before the hosts could take their lead into the dressing room at halftime, Philadelphia forward Julián Carranza tied things up, sneaking to the back post where he tucked away an easy chance from close range. Not having kept a clean sheet since the last day of May in a goalless draw with the Chicago Fire, it was an avoidable goal in which Tomás Romero misjudged a Mikael Uhre cross and ended up swiping the ball straight to Carranza.
The second half got off to a slow start with neither side looking up to finding a crucial second goal. That all changed in the 58th minute as Kerr came up big for the second time on the night, fortunately capitalizing on a deflected cross from Bernardeschi. Kobe Franklin kickstarted the goal with a decisive through ball to the Italian, with the young Canadian full-back playing an important part in the winning goal.
Franklin came back for more five minutes later with TFC buzzing all around a Union side that didn’t know what hit them. Advancing up the field on his right flank, Franklin flew a ball into the path of Jonathan Osorio, who pushed forward to head past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
The quick one-two punch from Dunfield’s side put the Union in an uncomfortable position and unable to figure out a way back into the match as the crowd grew in voice.
It may be hard to believe given their recent record, but the score could’ve been even higher for the team that sits bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference. Bernardeschi missed two golden opportunities to make it an embarrassing away day for the Union, sending a close range shot just wide in the 65th after putting Philly defender Jack Elliott on skates, and then fluffing his effort when through on goal in the 89th minute. In-between those opportunities Kerr would strike the woodwork as TFC used some rare positive momentum to push forward as the Union took more risks.
With the game out of reach in stoppage time, Union substitute Jesús Bueno was shown a red card after a VAR review from the match official. His kick out at Raoul Petretta was initially deemed worthy of a yellow by the referee but he changed his mind after taking a look at the pitchside monitor.
After the final whistle, jubilation on the pitch and in the stands soaked into the postgame press conference as Dunfield jumped for joy after recording his first win as a head coach.
“How fun was it watching our boys play?” he asked the assembled media in the TFC press conference room with a smile on his face.
“Just before we went out we just spoke about bringing some intensity. It’s been coming for sure. The performances have been good.”
The match-winner, Kerr, also described what the mood was like in the locker room following the much-needed victory.
“Just happiness, smiles … we were laughing,” he said.
“Feelings we haven’t had in a long time.”
Unfortunately, Dunfield and his squad won’t be able to quickly use the positive momentum gained from a thrilling victory at home thanks to the international break, in which CanMNT will not play any fixtures. The Reds don’t return to action until an all-Canadian clash against the Whitecaps on September 16 which will see Richie Laryea return to BMO Field for the first time since joining Vancouver.
In the meantime fans will wonder which team will show up for that game and if the result reached on Wednesday night, combined with the Herdman unveiling, are signs of progress finally being made.