Advertisement

Insigne scores with audacious chip as Toronto FC finally wins on the road

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It's early days in Major League Soccer but Toronto FC coach John Herdman and Italian star Lorenzo Insigne already have reasons to smile.

Toronto (1-0-1) set the table for next Saturday's home opener against Charlotte FC with a gritty 1-0 win Sunday at New England (0-2-0) that featured an audacious chipped goal by Insigne, some spectacular goalkeeping by Sean Johnson and stout defending as the Revolution pressed for an equalizer.

It marked Toronto's first MLS league victory away from home since Aug. 27, 2022, when it won 2-1 at Charlotte FC. And Insigne's strike ended a 916-minute road goal drought in league play, dating back to June 24, 2023, when Deandre Kerr scored in a 2-1 loss at New England.

TFC's previous last goal anywhere came Sept. 30 at BMO Field by Jonathan Osorio in a 3-2 loss to Cincinnati.

Having started the season with a scoreless draw at FC Cincinnati, Toronto now has four points on the road, matching its total last season when the club went 0-13-4 and picked up just four of a possible 51 points away from home.

It may be early in the season but Toronto is already getting monkeys off its back after a league-worst 4-20-10 campaign.

"I'm just proud. Proud of what these players are collectively putting out there for this club" said Herdman. "They've changed gears. There's a different effort, a different ethos. And I think a clarity towards what they want, which is to win football matches for this club and to get a back to the top."

Added Johnson: "We have a new profile. It's a different team, a completely different mentality … We're proud of the team we are."

Insigne's 27th-minute goal was an inspired effort. Federico Bernardeschi's attempted shot deflected off a defender and landed in front of Insigne, who steadied the ball, looked up to weigh his options and then nonchalantly chipped the ball into the far corner past disbelieving goalkeeper Heinrich Ravas.

"Tremendous finish," said Johnson. "To be honest I've seen that one too many times in training facing him so it's nice to see and witness it against an opponent. He's got an unbelievable ability attacking."

Insigne gave fans a scare when he clutched the back of his thigh during his goal celebration, seemingly stretching it out. Then he grinned and started walking normally, perhaps his way of saying last year's injury-plagued campaign is indeed behind him.

The Italian was substituted at halftime, his time limited on Gillette Stadium's (albeit new) artificial turf as Herdman had suggested would be the case prior to the game.

"Lorenzo and turf, they don't go too well," said Herdman.

Some resolute, and occasionally desperate, defence in the second half helped Toronto. Johnson made key saves on both Gil brothers, Carles and Nacho, as well as Esmir Bajraktarevic — and a game-saving one-handed stop on Jack Panayotou in stoppage time.

"A real world-class save," said Herdman, who earned his first win at the TFC helm.

Johnson has started the season with back-to-back shutouts, upping his career total to 101.It marks the first time in club history that TFC has started the campaign with consecutive clean sheets.

New England outshot Toronto 19-9 (6-2 in shots on target) and had 60 per cent possession.

For a second week in a row, Toronto was visiting a team coming off a short turnaround from CONCACAF Champions Cup play. The Revs blanked Panama's CAI 3-0 at home Thursday to win 4-0 on aggregate and move into the round of 16.

French defender Nicksoen Gomis made his Toronto debut, coming in for the injured Richie Laryea (thigh) in the only change to Herdman's starting 11. Germany's Prince Owusu got the start at forward for the second week in a row with Kerr still nursing a calf issue.

Newly acquired English midfielder Matty Longstaff did not dress for TFC, which wore its new white "community kit."

New England was missing Dylan Borrero (knee), Brandon Bye (knee), Peyton Miller (foot) and Bobby Wood (knee). Carles Gil and defender Henry Kessler both started despite being listed questionable on the league's injury report. Former TFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye came off the bench in the 61st minute.

Italian forward Giacomo Vrioni, one of the Revs' designated players, was suspended after being sent off last week.

Referee Wesley Costa went to the pitchside monitor in the 22nd minute to check for a possible penalty against Toronto, but waved it off after watching the replay. Deybi Flores had seemed to get a piece of Bajraktarevic's foot.

New England lost its season opener 3-1 at D.C. United, beaten by a Christian Benteke hat trick.

Despite the improved showing last week in Cincinnati, TFC came to Gillette Stadium having won just one of its last 19 games (1-18-0) in all competitions.

Toronto next hosts Charlotte FC on March 9.

---

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2024

The Canadian Press