Insigne’s Spectacular Goal Seals 1-0 Win over Charlotte in Home Opener

Lorenzo Insigne was the hero as he capped off Toronto FC’s hope opener with a fantastic goal to seal the win and secure three points at home.

TFC kicked off their 2024 MLS season on a positive note as they earned 4 points out of a possible 6, and returned to BMO Field for their home opener.

Toronto head coach John Herdman went with a 3-4-3 formation: Luka Gavran made his first start in-goal; Shane O’Neill, Kevin Long, and Nicksoen Gomis as the central defensive trio on the back line; Raoul Petretta and Kobe Franklin serving as wing-backs, Deybi Flores and Alonso Coello in central midfield; captain Jonathan Osorio as an attacking central midfield role, and Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi as the attacking duo up front.

The Italian DPs had some positive moments early on as they linked up the attack with Bernardeschi spotting Insigne in the box and lobbed him the ball, but he was unable to get a strong enough touch on the ball. Bernardeschi was a constant attacking threat during the first half as he did a great job cutting into space and creating plays for his teammates when he wasn’t able to get a shot off.

Gavran did well when called upon to make a save for his club and was a calm presence in goal and in the box supporting his defenders. There was a tense moment in the 27th minute after the 23-year-old made a challenge for the ball, but the VAR determined that there was no foul committed and a penalty kick was avoided.

In addition, Gavran made his best save of the half in the 38th minute as he denied Copetti’s scoring opportunity after he found an opening in Toronto’s backline. It was a big moment as it ensured that the score remained 0-0 and didn’t provide any momentum to the visitors.

Despite Charlotte having more shot attempts and shots on target, TFC dominated possession in the first half with 63% of possession and were able to push the pace later in the half. Although each team had potential scoring opportunities, it was a gritty half as Charlotte stuck to their gameplan defensively, which resulted in a more tactical battle between the two sides as opposed to a wide open offensive match.

Herdman made a substitution prior to the start of the second half as Rosted replaced Long on the backline.

Bernardeschi had an incredible goal scoring opportunity in the 60th minute after receiving the ball in a favorable position and struck the ball well with his left foot, but Kahlina dove to make the save. The scoring opportunity provided a spark for TFC as they appeared to have their foot on the gas and continued to get numbers into the box and create plays off the counterattack.

The TFC faithful were introduced to Matty Longstaff, who subbed into the match for his first taste of action at BMO Field since joining the club on February 29th. He adds some depth to the midfield position, so there could be some healthy competition among the central midfielders this season, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Toronto’s hard work finally paid off in the 80th minute following a spectacular goal by Insigne. The play initially began with a Bernardeschi’s cross being broken up, but TFC ended up recovering possession, which led to Insigne dribbling and cutting in toward the outside of the box and finished the play with a fantastic strike that found the back of the net.

The goal was a great moment for Insigne as he had been criticized for his inconsistency last season and the roar from the crowd as well as the ovation he received when he was subbed off in the 87th minute could signal a positive turning point for himself and TFC’s hopes at achieving success this season.

During his post-match press conference, Herdman opened up about the relationship he has formed with Insigne. He praised the Italian for his knowledge and creativity and mentioned that he sets a high standard. He said:

“He’s [Lorenzo Insigne] a real character…He knows that we’re trying to get the best out of him. Every player is committed to trying to get Lorenzo [Insigne] in and around the ball…He’s a tough player and I’m willing to listen to him. I think that’s an important part of this…At times it’s intense. He doesn’t give you a minute; he doesn’t give you a second. You’ve got to be at the top standard. If you’re not, he lets you know. And I’ve built that trust where I can let him know, as well. I think that’s where things are starting to blossom.”

Toronto FC head coach John Herdman on building a good relationship with Lorenzo Insigne

Toronto went on to close out the match and secure both the win and three points at home.

“I said today would be a tough game”, said Herdman post-match. “They [Charlotte] are a very direct team, direct second phase. You’ve got to fight for everything. Two strong forwards. But proud of the lads.”, he added.

Bernardeschi and Insigne received plenty of well deserved compliments, but Osorio made sure to shine a light on Gavran’s effort in today’s win. During his post-match media availability, the TFC captain mentioned that the 23-year-old was put into a tough situation as Sean Johnson picked up a knock in training yesterday, and embraced that challenge of starting in the club’s home opener. He said:

“A special mention to him because you know, obviously the injury to Sean [Johnson] kind of came yesterday. We weren’t really sure how bad it was and then when they evaluated him, he couldn’t go. As a goalie, you have to be ready and as a young player-goalkeeper, that’s not easy. And he was ready and he showed it today, and he came out big. And so, a big special mention to that young man…And that’s what we need.”

Toronto FC captain Jonathan Osorio’s post-match comments on Luka Gavran’s performance

A fun fact for the TFC faithful is that today’s 1-0 was their third consecutive clean sheet of the season and moved into a tie for their second longest streak. The last time they achieved that impressive feat was the 2017 MLS season – when they won MLS Cup.

Toronto FC will look to extend their unbeaten streak this season as they head on the road to take on New York City FC next Saturday.

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