Toronto FC

Reds return from international break, set sights on league-leaders FC Cincinnati 

Toronto FC are refreshed and ready to go again.

With 11 days between the last outing, a 1-1 draw at BMO Field against Nashville SC on June 10, and the next on Wednesday night, TFC were able to step out of the fray for a moment.

A healthy mix of time off and time spent on the training pitch was a welcome change of pace. 

“Good training. Some days off, but mixed with good training sessions so we could keep things going,” recounted Bob Bradley on Monday. “An important stretch coming up.”

Toronto head to Ohio for a clash with FC Cincinnati midweek before travelling to face the New England Revolution on Saturday, two of the top three sides in the Eastern Conference.

“Some guys were on international duty, the guys who stayed back were working hard and trying to improve,” highlighted Brandon Servania. “We're getting guys back from injury, so it's looking good. We're excited.”

“I stuck around, got to see a little bit more of the city,” he added. “Relaxed, but good.”

The rest came at a good time for TFC.

“The last couple months have been pretty busy for us,” noted Servania. “Good to get a few days to wind down, recharge the batteries and come back stronger ready to go.”

Whenever a team gets a break in the middle of a campaign it is a chance, not only to rest and recharge, but to assess what has happened in the flurry of activity that makes up the year. Sometimes the focus then is on one or two little details, but for Toronto it was turning up the dial on all things a notch.

“We constantly are trying to see, in all the different areas that matter, can we be a little bit better? I don't think there's any one thing,” explained Bradley. “It's can we be better in a lot of the different areas that determine games.”

Said Servania: “Keeping a lot of the same ideas, just being a little bit cleaner, getting a little bit more on the same page with those final passes.”

“Chemistry, that's the biggest thing for us right now,” he continued. “We have good moments, but we’re out on the training pitch trying to make that more consistent, more time-after-time – not just three out of 10, but eight or nine out of 10. That's what we're trying to focus on.”

Servania feels it was time well spent.

“You can see it,” he highlighted. “Guys are gelling, gaining confidence in each other and what we know we're looking for on the pitch. Hopefully it will show on Wednesday.”

A stern test lies ahead. 

Cincinnati lead both the East and the league with 40 points through 17 matches. Unbeaten in nine matches overall, Cincinnati have won all nine MLS games played at TQL Stadium in 2023.
Pat Noonan’s side have lost just once all season.

“Solid team,” levelled Bradley. “They have a very organized way of playing. They've had some players who have had very good seasons. [Matt] Miazga in the back has had a very good season and has really solidified everything. [Yerson] Mosquera has come in and done really well. [Luciano] Acosta has been excellent; Brandon Vazquez is a handful up front – he’ll be with the US team.”

“They're solid in every position,” he continued. “When you watch them play they're organized and they're balanced, between the way they go forward, the way they create some chances, and in the process don't give up too much.”

The dynamic Acosta leads the way with eight goals and three assists this season. Both Vazquez and Sergio Santos have chipped in with four goals apiece, while Álvaro Barreal’s five assists top that category.

“It's a team that's in good rhythm, good form, but we're focused on us right now,” said Servania. “We had a few days off, looking at ourselves. When we bring it and we're at our best we can beat any team in this league. We know they're a good opponent, but if we can do what we know we can then it should be good.”

One wrinkle for the upcoming stretch is that with both Sean Johnson (USA) and Tomás Romero (El Salvador) away for the upcoming Gold Cup, Greg Ranjitsingh is expected to start in goal. 

Both Richie Laryea and Jonathan Osorio are expected to be available for Wednesday before reporting back to Canada’s preparatory camp.

In anticipation of those absences Ranjitsingh has played two matches for TFC II in recent weeks, saving two spot kicks in a shootout against Inter Miami CF II on June 11. His coach and his teammates are not concerned one bit about the goalkeeping change.

“Greg earns confidence with what he does in training,” said Bradley. “He makes some good saves and when players see that they feel like they've got somebody behind who's going to be there and be ready.”

Added Servania: “We know Greg has been working. We've been training with him, we know what he has to offer, what he has to bring. He's ready to step into that role and do what he has to do.”

The rest of the season starts on Wednesday. Toronto welcome the challenge that facing the league-leaders provides.

“You’ve got to play well,” underlined Bradly. “You respect what they've been able to do as a team and you understand that when you go there your ability to be good with the ball, control the game in the right moments, try to find ways to create chances, set-pieces and how that factors in on both sides, attacking and defending. You have to play well.”