Toronto FC have become well acquainted with short turnarounds after a busy month of action.
The side played seven games from May 6 to May 31 and will face one more in quick succession with an away date with Minnesota United on Saturday.
When the games come fast the usual rhythms between matches alter, some processes are shortened, others are given more time to work themselves out.
Bob Bradley went straight from BMO Field to the video, analyzing Wednesday’s scoreless draw against the Chicago Fire to begin getting the side ready for the next challenge.
“I spent a lot of time last night and early this morning with last night's game so that I can show individuals some plays that I think are important,” explained Bradley on Thursday afternoon. “We had already begun the process of looking at Minnesota.”
“The players that come in today, the ones that played, it's mainly about recovery, mental and physical. The ones that don't play are on the field,” he outlined. “And then tomorrow when we get together in video before we go on the field we'll cover some of the important moments from last night before we turn and try to tie that with what we expect from Minnesota.”
Players will always say they like these busy times, preferring playing games to training sessions.
“A lot of us are kind of used to it now,” said Kobe Franklin. “May has been a very busy month, so just looking forward to the next game. It’s something all of us have to do as pros.”
“It has been pretty hectic,” he allowed. “June seems to calm down a little, but games are always fun.”
With the list of players unavailable holding steady – Sigurd Rosted may be available – Bradley is without one of the luxuries coaches often turn to when games pile up.
“In a perfect world rotation would be a nice consideration, but obviously we have limited options,” he said. “We are going to see where guys are.”
“It's hard to fully assess everybody so quickly after the game, but you get a little bit of an idea. Oftentimes when the turnaround is this quick you don't even name a lineup tomorrow,” Bradley explained. “We give some possibilities and then we wait to see how we are doing come tomorrow night and then Saturday morning.”
One of the players who has made the most of the opportunity provided with the squad thin is Franklin.
The 20-year-old, who signed to the first team earlier this season, has started the last eight matches – seven in MLS and one in the Canadian Championship.
“It's been a big month for me,” said Franklin. “I'm very grateful and I think I've been getting better, so I'm just looking to continue down that path.”
“Bob’s been saying I’m making a lot of good progress, on both sides of my game, and he says he's been happy with me,” he noted. “So I’m just trying to continue that and have him continue to trust me in that role.”
From either full-back position, Franklin has shown what made him such a standout with TFC II in MLS NEXT Pro. He’s been a bright spot in a trying month for the club.
After Saturday’s action TFC will have an entire week to prepare for their next match: against Nashville SC at BMO Field on June 10. The side will then have 11 days before resuming their MLS schedule away to FC Cincinnati.
Though results – Toronto have a win and two draws in their last four matches – and performances have stepped up a notch in recent weeks, the club is fully aware they have left some points on the table this month.
“All you can do is keep working in the best ways possible, continue to try to improve,” levelled Bradley. “If you go through a tough stretch, there's got to be a way that the group collectively can look at things, can be strong.”
“We've been tested,” he continued. “We've been tested on the fact that we've had a lot of close, tight games where we certainly could have taken more points than we did. We've had a lot of days where we don't give much away and overall we play alright, but don't create enough. And I say over and over that our margin becomes really small.”
“And then when you add in the injuries, you know that point wise you've left many behind,” Bradley added. “But having said that, there's got to still be a focus on what does it mean for Minnesota? What does it mean for Nashville? And how do we keep trying to make that margin a little bit bigger and take more points.”
Minnesota enter Saturday’s match on the back of a 2-1 defeat away to Austin FC on Wednesday. Adrian Heath’s side had been unbeaten in three matches – wins at home over the Houston Dynamo and away to the Portland Timbers ahead of a 1-1 home draw against Real Salt Lake – before falling in Texas midweek.
Bongokuhle Hlongwane leads the way offensively with four goals in 14 appearances. Both Ménder García and Robin Lod have chipped in a pair of assists, but the contributions of Argentine star Emanuel Reynoso, who was suspended for not reporting to preseason, have been missed. Reynoso scored 10 goals and registered 11 assists in 2022.
He is back with the team, but yet to make an appearance.
“Always a solid team. Basic ideas,” assessed Bradley of the Loons threat. “They went through the challenge of the situation with Reynoso, such an important player. He's back training a little bit.”
“My sense is that he, maybe, is available for some minutes,” he continued. “I don't think he's far enough in the return yet that he's going to be a huge factor, but even if he's on the field for 10 or 15 minutes, he's a difference maker in the way he sees the game and the plays he can make.”