On Saturday, the Trillium Cup rivalry is revived as Toronto FC returns to Central Ohio to take on the Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field. This, however, is not the same Toronto team of years past that was competing for MLS Cups but a club going through a transformation after winning no hardware since the 2018 Canadian Championship. To get you prepared for the matchup, Massive Report spoke with Jeffrey Nesker of Waking the Red.
Massive Report asked Nesker how Toronto’s first two matches have gone, in terms of supporters' expectations, what does Lorenzo Insigne’s eventual arrival mean for the team and how the adjustment is going with the arrival of new head coach Bob Bradley.
Massive Report: Toronto started the year with a draw at FC Dallas and followed that performance up with a 4-1 defeat at home against New York Red Bulls. While it’s only two matches of a 34-game season, are the results something you expected? Is this a byproduct of adjusting to a new coach, knocking off the preseason rust or both?
Jeffrey Nesker: While it would’ve been fabulous to open the year with two 11-0 blowouts, even the most knee-jerk in TFCland would concede that, after an overhaul Ike we experienced this offseason, compounded by our big ticket signings arrivals delayed until the summer, and exacerbated by the promotion of several young players to the first team and assigned new positions, this season would be a slog. Especially the first 1/3. So while it sucks to lose one of the first two, and get blown out in the home debut, we secretly harbor far more patience. We just need to keep publically reminding ourselves as a fanbase. It’s been a rough couple of years.
MR: Part of the offseason conversation surrounding Toronto was the hiring of Bob Bradley to manage the side. What is he bringing tactically that’s different from the Toronto that Columbus last saw in May of 2021?
JN: Everything, though at this point we may be even more chaotic than that Armas side you faced last year. He’s very much still tinkering with an understaffed roster and possibly finding ways to adapt his personal style to the squad he has on the day.
We’re seeing the beginnings of a Bob Bradley side though. An emphasis on zonal responsibility and quick, precise passing that is his trademark.
MR: The identity of Toronto FC for so long has been Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, especially here in America. With Altidore gone and Bradley closer to retirement than his prime, what does the future of Toronto look like? Is the addition of Lorenzo Insigne in the offseason the official changing of the guard?
JN: This is still Michael Bradley’s team. And we expect his role off the pitch to increase as his role on it decreases.
That being said, I think the departure of Jozy, moreso than the arrival of Insigne, signals that changing of the guard. TFC has always spent big on incoming transfers. Saying goodbye to a club legend after trying to make it work for 2+ years was very much turning a big page in the eventual history book.