April 21st, 2024

Coach John Herdman says Toronto FC has more work to do with the roster

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on March 1, 2024.

Newly-signed Toronto FC midfielder Matty Longstaff holds up his jersey after training in Toronto on Friday, March 1, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson

TORONTO – While the signing of former Newcastle midfielder Matty Longstaff brings Toronto FC to its senior roster limit of 30, coach John Herdman says the MLS club isn’t done dealing.

“I think anything’s possible,” Herdman said after training Friday. “We’re working with the front office just to see what is possible, what’s available. Conversations with players will happen as they start to see how the cards are falling with regard are they core (players), are they sub-core, or are they extended squad players?

“What I’m learning is I’m still learning about the lads “¦ So I think right up to the transfer window (which closes April 23), we’ll be busy. We’re looking for opportunity but I think you all know everything’s reliant on what you move out of the club and what people want from this club to be able to get things in.”

Longstaff joins defenders Nicksoen Gomis and Kevin Long, midfielder Deybi Flores and top draft pick Tyrese Spicer as Herdman additions. TFC has also reacquired fullback Richie Laryea and signed defender Adam Pearlman to a homegrown contract.

TFC continues on the road this weekend, hoping to build on the positive signs of the season-opening draw at FC Cincinnati when it visits the New England Revolution on Sunday.

Forward Deandre Kerr is a week or two away from recovering from a calf injury sustained in a pre-season game with Real Salt Lake. Laryea, who did not take part in training Friday, was feeling some tightness after the Cincinnati game.

“He may be on the bench. We may bring him into the game. But it’s not a priority for this weekend for Richie Laryea,” said Herdman.

Forward Ayo Akinola has returned to training after picking up an ankle knock last weekend.

The artificial turf at Gillette Stadium, while newly laid, is an issue for Toronto.

Herdman has said he plans to manage Lorenzo Insigne’s minutes this season, with the Italian star minimizing time on turf.

“He might see action (Sunday),” said Herdman who wants to see the playing surface at Gillette Stadium firsthand.

“The medical staff will have a big say in what he does, if he does anything,” he added. “For us, it’s going to be a long season and we need him in every game possible.”

And while Herdman raved about Longstaff’s fitness, he said the club would be careful with him given he is coming back from knee surgery.

“He might travel with the team. He might be on the bench,” Herdman said. “But I’m looking more (at) next week for the home opener and beyond to minimize any risk for him.”

For a second week in a row, Toronto is visiting a team coming off a short turnaround from CONCACAF Champions Cup play. The Revs blanked Pamana’s CAI 3-0 at home Thursday to win 4-0 on aggregate and move into the round of 16 with former TFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye scoring one of the goals.

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

Despite the improved showing in Cincinnati, TFC still has won just one of its last 19 games (1-18-0) in all competitions. And it has not won from home since Aug. 27, 2022, when it triumphed 2-0 at Charlotte FC.

Toronto’s goalless drought away from home now stands at 889 minutes since Kerr scored in a 2-1 loss at New England on June 24, 2023.

TFC’s last goal anywhere came Sept. 30 at BMO Field by Osorio in a 3-2 loss to Cincinnati. Toronto has been blanked for the 406 minutes since.

In contrast, New England went 12-1-4 at home in league play in 2023, setting a club record for most home points earned in a season (40).

The Revs (15-9-10) finished fifth in the Eastern Conference, 33 points and 10 places above Toronto (4-20-10).

New England has won six straight (3-0-2) against TFC and leads the all-time series at 16-10-13, including an 11-4-5 record at Gillette Stadium. The Revs are 17-6-5 all-time in their home openers (13-4-5 mark since 2002 when Gillette Stadium opened).

After New England, Toronto hosts Charlotte FC on March 9.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2024

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