Unbeaten in four, three-straight wins at home, Toronto FC continues to develop as the season unfolds.

After a slow start, the side has found their footing over the last month, just in time for another tasty contest coming up this weekend, as they head to New York City for a rematch against NYCFC.

Undoubtedly, one of the threads of the campaign so far has been young players stepping up and performing. From opening day, Bob Bradley has looked for every member of the squad to contribute. 

Another has been the more experienced guys, whether they be newcomers or old hands, who need to contribute, have made their impact on the scoresheet.

Saturday’s 2-1 win over the high-flying Philadelphia Union was a case in point. It wasn’t a pretty game, it wasn’t an easy game. 

Down a goal, Jonathan Osorio got on the ball on the edge of the box and almost single-handedly crafted a pathway through the Union defenses to set up Jesús Jiménez’s equalizer. It was Osorio’s team leading third assist of the season and Jiménez’s fourth goal in seven games, the most from any TFC player.

“That was a great finish,” said Alex Bono post-match. “And Oso to play the one-two and get the ball to him – both of those guys have been on a tear.”

“It's great to see Oso playing in tight spaces; Jesús, his movement puts him in a really, really good position to score goals and you've seen him grow into his own,” he continued. “I'm sure it's always been there, but now that he's learned the tendencies of guys, he's really made an impact for us and that was some sort of classy finish today, it really was.”

“For him to back off like that and have Oso find him and in one touch just kind of lean back and put it in the far corner,” Bono detailed. “He's a joy to watch. He's a joy to train with. And he's working his ass off all the time. And so to see that, to see him come in and continue to put goals on the board for us, is huge.”

Coach Bradley has been asked so many times about what Jiménez brings that he almost has a standard answer to the question: “Jesús is a very good player. He's smart, he's skillful, he's got a really good presence in the group.”

“We keep saying that there's more there too,” the script continued. “We can push him physically, we can see even more power and more explosiveness to go with the football part, but look, he knows how to position himself in certain kinds of finishes, he knows exactly how he wants to beat the keeper. You see all these things every day and it's going to continue to get better.”

In games against the likes of Philadelphia, a team needs their stars to step up. 

And step up Alejandro Pozuelo did early in the second half, collecting an in-field ball from Kadin Chung on the right and tight-roping across the Union box before stabbing a dagger into the bottom left-corner for the eventual game-winner.

It was his second goal of the season, to go with a pair of assists, through seven matches. 

“It’s an important goal,” said Pozuelo. “I'm in the box, so they cannot touch me, so I tried to dribble in and, when I have the opportunity, to shoot. I shot slow, but I know the keeper tried to close the other side. A little bit lucky, but happy to win, happy to [score] the goal, and happy to help the team.”

It wasn’t quite the vintage MVP Pozuelo of 2019 in every aspect of the game, but those flashes have increased in number and frequency.

“He put a lot into it,” said Bradley, asked of Pozuelo’s performance. “As a team, in the moments where the game is on Philadelphia's terms, we did a very good job of dealing with 50/50 balls, getting to loose balls, winning those kinds of battles. And then when we have moments to start to play our football, we had the sequence that led to the first goal, which was very good, but I still think that on the night, there were moments where certain passes, the weight of the pass, some of the first touches... I believe in our football and I was very happy with the way we pushed and competed, but I still think our football in moments was not as sharp as I expect.”

“Ale might have had a few passes that fit into that category,” he allowed. “But I also want to give Ale credit for just the effort that he gave us, the commitment to the game, and then a really well taken goal.”

Seven matches in, it hasn’t been all pretty, one wouldn’t expect it to be.

“That'll come,” promised Bono. “Against a team like Philly, where it's not going to be the prettiest game of football, it doesn't matter what it looks like, especially at this point in the season. The fact of the matter is we came in, we battled hard, and at the end of the day we had more goals than the other team and that's what the objective of the game is.”

“If you asked Diego Simeone if he really cares what the game looks like, as long as he gets three points, advances – sometimes that's the mentality,” he continued, pointing to the Atlético Madrid coach’s infamous philosophy, which was on full display in recent UEFA Champions League action. “We know that we can play a really attractive style of football, we know that we can pick teams apart with our passing when the time is right, but the most important thing is getting over the line after 90 minutes and getting three points.”

“The performances will come, but right now to be able to grind out like this and really see out a game against a team that's tough to play against,” Bono added. “I'm not really worried about how it looks at this point. I'm worried about getting victories.”

These too are valuable lessons for all those young players.

“We're going to have to bunker down at times, we're going to have to lay our body on the line, we're going to have to make recovery runs that we don't necessarily want to make or that we're not used to making,” levelled Bono. “The more guys that can understand that that's a part of what we stand for here, a part of battling and getting 2-1, 1-0 [wins], holding teams down late and not letting them get opportunities.”

“That's what this club has been built off of; that's what our success has been built off of,” he stressed. “As we go on, as we face more adversity, as you always do in a long season, the more guys we can have that buy into it and really lay it on the line and after 90 minutes come into the locker room and say, ‘I have nothing left,’ the more successful this team is going be.”

27 more games to go, Lorenzo Insigne arriving in a few months, more time on the training pitch, and players gaining fitness, sharpness, and experience with each passing week. 

“There's still so much coming, the idea of exactly what we're going to be,” pondered Bradley, asked to assess the team’s development. “When I say that, what I really mean is how much can we be a team that controls games? How can we be a little bit better with the ball? I think that we have to find ways to create more chances. I think our ability to compete and deal with different moments in the game is going in a good direction, there's more and more guys that are putting more into the game and understanding that when you have full commitment from everybody that raises your chances for good results. And then there's just football details that continue to be worked on all the time.”

“So I'm not sure,” he answered. “I still see a lot of things that need to get better, but I'm also pleased with the response of so many guys.”