May 29th, 2024

Italian star Lorenzo Insigne set to return for Toronto FC against New York City FC

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on May 10, 2024.

Toronto FC's Lorenzo Insigne greets fans after scoring the game-winning goal in his team's 1-0 win over Charlotte FC in MLS action in Toronto, Saturday, March 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO – A victory over visiting New York City FC on Saturday and Toronto FC can match its entire points total of last season when it finished last in the league at 4-20-10.

And that’s with Toronto (6-4-1) having 22 matches remaining in the regular season after weekend play.

There’s more good news with word that Italian star Lorenzo Insigne will return Saturday after missing the last eight games in all competitions with a hamstring issue.

“He’ll play (Saturday),” a happy John Herdman said after training Friday.

Still to be decided is whether Insigne starts and leaves early, or comes off the bench.

“We’ve missed him,” the coach said.

“When a player like that is out of the lineup, you just know that other players are going to get picked up in the game and it’ll be harder to create things,” Herdman added. “We’re excited to see what he does whatever time he gets (Saturday). I’m sure he’s excited as well.”

Toronto, which stands third in the Eastern Conference two points behind second-place FC Cincinnati, has answered some questions in Insigne’s absence.

Germany’s Prince Owusu has laid claim to the starting forward position with five goals in his last five appearances. And fellow Italian Federico Bernardeschi, who did everything but score in his first 10 outings of the season, broke out of his slump with a pair of goals in last Saturday’s 3-1 win over FC Dallas and added another in the midweek 3-0 cup victory at Ligue1 Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent.

Herdman can’t wait to see the two Italians on the same field again, combining with the rest of the TFC talent.

“It’s an exciting group, it really is,” he said, saying the team can “take it up another level” if everyone stays on track.

At the current rate, Toronto is on pace for a 58-point season. The franchise record is 69, set during the 2017 treble-winning campaign when TFC went 20-5-9.

Herdman said he hadn’t realized his team could match last year’s points total with a win over New York.

“Just getting the win is front and centre, to keep the climb up the league (standings),” he said. “It’s funny, we haven’t looked back on last year. That’s been a big part of our commitment here, that what happened happened. We’ve left it in the past.

“Everything’s just future-focused. What can we do to achieve our goals.”

Defender Sigurd Rosted says it’s been night and day at TFC between this season and last with Herdman changing the dynamic.

“It was really big change, John coming in,” said the 29-year-old Norwegian. “It really feels like we have a lot of clarity this year. All of the players know what to do in their position on the field. So that turns into good confidence on the field as well. You just feel like everybody’s happy to play.”

That’s good, because there has been no shortage of games in recent weeks. Saturday marks TFC’s sixth game in all competitions in three weeks.

The good news is Toronto won the previous five straight while outscoring the opposition 14-2.

NYCFC (4-5-2) goes into weekend play in seventh place in the East, winless on the road in league play this season (0-3-1). The New Yorkers are coming off a 2-0 loss to visiting Colorado that ended a five-game unbeaten run (3-0-2).

Toronto lost 2-1 at Yankee Stadium when the teams met March 16 in a game that saw NYCFC midfielder Keaton Parks shown a straight red in the 68th minute for a nasty challenge on substitute Kobe Franklin. The loss ended TFC’s three-game unbeaten start (2-0-1) to the season.

NYCFC coach Nick Cushing says his team has used that game to study Toronto “because I think they’re really well coached.”

Cushing said Argentine playmaker Maxi Moralez returned to training this week but is not yet ready to play. Moralez underwent surgery after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament last September in a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Toronto is without the injured Richie Laryea, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Shane O’Neill and Brandon Servania.

Wingbacks Raoul Petretta and Tyrese Spicer are dealing with foot issues but are expected to see action, perhaps splitting time.

A victory Saturday would also mark Toronto’s first run of four or more league wins in a single season since winning five consecutive matches from Sept. 23 through Oct. 11, 2020.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2024.

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