Phase one of Toronto FC’s 2024 preseason is in the books.
After a week-and-a-half of training in Florida, John Herdman’s team played Nashville in a two-part friendly on Friday consisting of two games of 60 minutes each, split into 30-minute periods.
Fielding what Herdman called “a strong team” with Federico Bernardechi, Lorenzo Insigne, and captain Jonathan Osorio all in the XI, TFC won the first game 2-0 thanks to a goal apiece from the Italian Designated Players.
Bernardeschi opened the scoring by curling one into the bottom corner after being teed up by Insigne.
And Insigne added the second and final goal of the first game now long afterwards.
The Italian was fed well by striker Deandre Kerr and finished neatly to double the lead against Nashville.
“The guys were able to keep a clean sheet and score two goals,” Herdman said of the first portion of the action. “I think that’s important for their confidence and to keep a clean sheet is a big starting point. Some of the quality was there and for a preseason game there was good chemistry, good movement, a lot of good opportunities as well.”
Bernardeschi and Insigne’s goals came two days after Herdman had hailed the duo.
“Lorenzo and Federico, they’ve worked hard behind the scenes to keep the mood high and raise the intensity,” Herdman told reporters on Wednesday. “They bring intensity and competitiveness, they bring their personalities every day… Those arguments, scuffles, that’s what we want in those moments. There’s a real competitive environment with the quality they have. When their competition dials up, it’s special to watch.”
Whether the performances and goals are a sign that both DPs are ready to fully commit to TFC’s 2024 rebuild with the European transfer window now shut remains to be seen. Insigne reportedly decided against a move to Premier League Nottingham Forest this week while Bernardeschi was allegedly turned down by multiple leading Italian clubs.
On Friday in Florida, Herdman made a bunch of changes for the second 60-minute portion as well as tweaking the tactical approach. Although TFC lost that second leg 1-0, the head coach was pleased with what he saw.
“Second half we changed things up to give a lot of opportunities to players and to really continue with the assessment piece. I was really happy with the players in the second half, we had a system change and we conceded one goal but we had at least three or four good chances to equalize or even win the game.
“From a fitness perspective, a lot of the players were able to do 60 minutes in this heat and it was a real good test for them. Nashville are a physical team, they’re fit, they were coming into their third preseason match.
“Overall as a preseason exercise, it’s a good start and back to winning ways in one of the periods.”
The team and staff will now return home to Toronto for some respite before flying out to Santa Barbara, California next week to play three other preseason friendly games against MLS Cup winners Columbus Crew on February 10, Real Salt Lake on February 13, and LAFC on February 17.
“Hopefully, the guys will be going home after this hard first phase ready to be with their families but with a smile on their face,” concluded Herdman.
Meanwhile, Jason Hernandez and the front office will continue to put the work in to add reinforcements to the squad, with midfielder Deybi Flores the only senior addition to the wooden spoon roster so far.
Herdman had said on Wednesday that going into phase two of preseason, “we really want to have some incoming players… we’ll aim to have new bodies in as the camp progresses.”