Toronto FC will be looking to keep the streaks rolling on Wednesday night when they face the New England Revolution at BMO Field.
The club enters midweek action unbeaten in four league matches, having won three of four, including the last two, outscoring opponents 11-4 over that spell.
“The players are in a good way right now,” said Bob Bradley on Tuesday. “There was a good feeling about the way we played. Portland was probably the game where we created the most chances and gave away the fewest chances. The idea of taking that, being ready again.”
“They had Sunday off, yesterday starters just did recovery, we had a group on the field and today we did some video, went through some of the things from the Portland game and then presented New England,” he continued. “Everybody's doing great. There will be another game after that, but we're excited for the home match tomorrow.”
There have been a few differences in this four-game stretch.
“I feel like from minute one to the 90th minute we're all engaged,” highlighted Jayden Nelson. “That competitive nature, you can see, is a bit different.”
“And those little mistakes, whatever it is, we're all backing each other and you can see there's a difference,” he added. “We're all in that mindset: everyone working together and working hard.”
The additions of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, who have been involved in eight of the club’s last ten goals, hasn’t hurt either.
It’s not just their offensive potency that has impacted the team, according to Nelson, they along with Domenico Criscito have brought important reminders of what it takes to reach the highest levels.
“Just being more engaged in everything you do and being sharp,” pinpointed Nelson. “It's everything you do, not even just on the pitch, off the pitch as well, those little things. They played at the top level, so just trying to implement those little things into my everyday life and take it step-by-step.”
Those relationships are still forming, the understanding growing, but it’s working.
“Obviously, there's a language barrier, but football is football, you know? You’ll understand on the pitch,” said Nelson. “Not everything can you communicate [directly], but they’ll use their hands or whatever and then you’ll understand."
“It's hard, but you'll get what they're saying,” he added. “They’ll their hands or whatever, but you’ll understand.”
It’s a big three-game week for TFC: Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers got it off to a good start, but two more matches lie ahead.
On Saturday the club hits the road for a clash with Inter Miami CF, squaring off against Alejandro Pozuelo and his new side. They will be aiming to go into that one having already collected six points from the two home matches.
At their backs is that BMO Field has been rocking once again – something that was sorely missed during the pandemic affected seasons.
Some players, like Nelson who signed for the first team ahead of the 2020 season, haven’t gotten to properly experience the roar of the home crowd.
“No, I haven't,” reflected the 19-year-old with a smile. “I've seen BMO packed like that before with the national team. It's crazy. It's crazy. It's good to see that we have the fans backing us and seeing the vision that we have in the building. It gives us an extra push as well, so we're happy for that.”
“Of course, of course,” he replied, asked if the players feel it. “When I came off last game and the fans cheered, it was a surreal feeling, something I dreamed about as a kid, so it's great.”
The team will be looking forward to that vociferous support on Wednesday. New England are the only team in the last four matches to deny TFC the full points, holding out for a 0-0 draw at Gillette Stadium on July 30.
It’s always complicated playing a team twice in quick succession: each game is unique, but there are parallels.
“It's different, but their keys remain the same,” explained Bradley. “Carles Gil is a great player, a key to their team. Skillful, great eye for passes. They're a team that's very good on crosses, getting people in the box. Dangerous on set-pieces, organized defensively.”
“They've had challenges with injuries and guys out, so their lineups have changed a little bit – and since we played them the last time [Sebastian] Lletget was traded – so there's some things that'll be different for sure, but overall, the way they go about playing, the keys are the same,” he weighed. “And, again, it’s Gil as the main thing: he floats around the field, he's very good at finding space, they're good at making sure he gets on the ball, so those are the things that we have to be on top of.”
The Revolution won their last visit to BMO Field, 2-1 last August, but TFC won the four before that.
Bruce Arena’s side enters in good form, having won their last two – most recently 1-0 over D.C. United on Saturday – and unbeaten in four matches.
Gil’s 12 assists continues to lead the way for the Revolution, while Gustavo Bou, who is reportedly not making the trip to Toronto, tops the goal scoring tally with seven goals, level with Adam Buksa, who was transferred to France at the beginning of June.
With nine games left in the MLS regular season, there is a sense of urgency – but that’s not where Toronto’s focus lies.
“It's there, we all know that, but as a coach you're more with a process of how you become a good team and how it gets better every day and what training is like – that's one way of working, that's certainly more my way of doing it – than every day putting the standings in front of them,” explained Bradley. “We know that we've got to finish in a good way, we know that we're playing better and better every game. We still focus on trying to make sure that the work that we're doing, the football that we're playing can grow, can continue, and that's going to get us where we need to go.”
Both New England and Miami are teams that Toronto is directly chasing, so there’s no denying it’s a big week.
“We're all confident,” levelled Nelson. “I'll say it simple: we're just coming in every day, knowing the main goal is to make playoffs and have a good push to making the final.”
“We're all confident,” he repeated. “And we're just looking towards every game to get those three points.”
Said Bradley: “We believe that there's 27 points on the table.”
“And that if we continue to play well and if our football is good, if we keep making chances, if we're not giving much away,” he closed. “Then let's see how many points we can take out of 27.”