Toronto FC

Reds persevere through tough stretch, turn focus to match vs. Austin FC

Speaking to and listening to a coach and his players over the course of a season, themes tend to emerge. 

Ideas percolate to the surface, emerge in answers to unrelated questions and seemingly random conversations.

That’s half the fun of it, part of the value of it. 

Asked about the role of social media in the modern game on Thursday, Bob Bradley hit on one of those undercurrents guiding Toronto FC.

“The part of how you go about something, feeling good about yourself, understanding what it means to compete and know that you've put everything you have into something” he said. “That's part of how you have to live life. You’ve got to enjoy what happens. You’ve got to enjoy challenges. You’ve got to feel good when you work hard.”

“This Giannis thing after the playoffs that went viral,” he continued, referencing the Milwaukee Bucks Antetokounmpo’s response to a question about the season being a failure when they were knocked out of the playoffs. “All he was really saying is you compete.”

“In sports, what happens at the end of the day, it's a winner or loser. That's different than what goes on around the world,” Bradley resumed. “I'm the biggest [Bruce] Springsteen fan going and he's killing it, not night after night anymore, but every second night, every third night because he goes out and he puts on the show and his passion and his commitment and his words, everything, resonate.”

“It's not like somebody else was competing with him and some nights he loses and some nights he wins. It's just that when he gives everything he has, it's there. Sports are different in that regard,” he closed. “You can still have a guy like Giannis and he’ll say, ‘Yeah. I put everything I had into it.’ That's positive, that's a winner too.”

That’s not saying that it’s OK to lose. It’s not saying that winning isn’t the goal, but that the way to get there is for every player to put everything they have out on the field, in training and in matches, and see what that brings.

There is a consistency in that.

Injuries, results, form, refereeing decisions, all that is the ups and downs of a season. It may waiver on occasion, go missing for a spell or two, but how a team goes about it, that doesn’t change.

A 0-0 draw on Wednesday night against the New York Red Bulls ended the three-match losing streak in all competitions. Short-handed, missing key pieces, the XI on the field and the six players on the bench did just that. 

That emphasis is reflected in the comments from players.

“Everyone just needs to trust in each other,” said Kosi Thompson. “This is something that we haven't seen before, there's a crazy amount of injuries. Guys are coming back thankfully, but with the group that we have, everyone's putting 110% everyday in the training grounds, on the field. We need to trust in each other and trust in the quality that we have and really push this tough stretch.”

Thompson was one of those called upon to step in and perform. Saturday, manning the base of the midfield in just his second start of the season, was perhaps the 20-year-old’s finest performance to date. 

“Physically, I’m feeling good and feeling fit,” he said on Thursday. “Mentally I’ve been preparing myself for an opportunity like this, I think that I've come in and taken it well. I feel like I haven’t missed a step, so as a whole I just want to keep everyone going.”

He and a handful of other recent TFC Academy graduates – Kobe Franklin, Themi Antonoglou, and Hugo Mbongue – are stepping in and putting in shifts. 

They will be called upon again to do so as TFC heads to Texas on Saturday for a date with Austin FC.

Coming off a 2-1 win away to Seattle Sounders FC midweek, Josh Wolff, who made his playing debut under Bradley at the Chicago Fire, will have his side eager to push up the standings after a slow start. That victory ended an eight-match winless spell for a team that were Western Conference finalists last season.

“They've shown that they're a team that has good ideas in how they want to play football,” assessed Bradley. “They changed at times a little bit this year. They've played a little bit more a version of 3-4-3 of late, some of their build-up ideas, some of their ways of getting people forward, runs in the box, movements, those things are good.”

2022 MLS All-Star, Best XI, and MVP Finalist Sebastian Driussi, with two goals and one assist through nine appearances, is listed as ‘Out’ for Saturday. Jon Gallagher leads the side with four goals on the season, while Owen Wolff, the coach’s son, tops the assist table with three helpers. Former Red Max Urruti has one goal in ten appearances.

With a quick turnaround, playing their fifth game since May 6, TFC are locked in on what they need to do to be victorious.

“We've been focusing on ourselves,” said Thompson. “Tomorrow we're going to have a couple sessions, have a couple talks. Quick stretch of games. Today has mainly been the focus on getting guys back to where we need to be.”

That one thing won’t change.

“Same mentality coming into the game as we did last night,” underlined Thompson. “Clean-sheet, everyone working together, and then from there we're going to get chances. And hopefully on Saturday we're able to put away a few.”