Toronto FC

Reds' unforgettable Home Opener: Milestones, Debut, and Victory


Saturday’s win over Charlotte FC in the home opener at BMO Field contained many layers. 

Not only did it extend Toronto FC’s unbeaten start to the 2024 MLS season, continuing the shutout streak, and putting the club among the several sides vying for the top of the early table, but it was John Herdman’s first win as TFC head coach at BMO Field, saw the debut of Matty Longstaff, Luka Gavran’s first MLS clean-sheet, and yet another historic milestone for TFC captain Jonathan Osorio.

There was a lot going on.

March 9, 2013 saw Osorio, then a 20-year-old homegrown signing, come on for Terry Dunfield in the 82nd minute of a 2-1 win over Sporting KC at the Rogers Centre.

11 years later, to the day, he led the side out as captain for his 300th MLS appearance (all competitions), becoming the first player to reach that mark with Toronto FC.


“I was in the moment,” replied Osorio post-match, asked about the milestone. “Alejandra [Rueda, TFC Communications Director] just told me those stats right now. I wasn't really aware of that.”

“I'm very in the present right now, taking it day-to-day and step-by-step this year. That's all great, but honestly all that I really care about today is that the team won,” he continued. “We won our home opener and we keep in a good way.”

His coach Herdman had a bit more to say on the matter: “I came to this club to work with him, I said that right from the starting point.”

“I've worked with [Christine] Sinclair, I've worked with Atiba Hutchinson, great people, great humans, and they're right in the core of your leadership group. If you've got a player with that character, that high level of character, the highest standard character, you want to work with those people,” he continued. “So for me that conversation [with Osorio] coming to TFC [was] are you going to be there? Are you committed? Will you wear the armband? Are you committed to taking this club back and beyond where it was at? And he was.”

“What can I say about Oso?” Herdman paused.

“The hardest working player on the team, maybe [Federico] Bernardeschi is just underneath him at the moment. You see his quality as well. He's going to do all that selfless running, but he can bring the quality in those moments. His movement and his touch is next level.”

“What he said at the end summarizes him: ‘It's just another step, guys. Just one more step to bringing this club to where it needs to be.’ That’s his mentality, he’s always on. That next step, next step, next step,” he added. “He’s never thinking about the last step and he's never willing to stand and wait. He's pushing everyone.”

In a game made up of a million little moments, one never knows what will be required, what will be asked, demanded. One has to be ready.

Luka Gavran credited his experiences in 2023 with helping him be ready for this moment.

“The games last year definitely helped me with managing the game,” he said. “And [having played] already with players that were on the field.”

Gavran had to be ready.

“We have to mention him, a special mention to him, because Sean [Johnson] couldn’t go and as a goalie you have to be ready,” credited Osorio. “As a young guy, a young player, a young goalkeeper, that's not easy.”


“He was ready and he showed it today. He came up big,” he continued.

“A big special mention to that guy, to that young man, because today showed he was a man. And that's what we need on this team right now. Really happy for him, he has a bright future.”

It wasn’t the busiest day at the office for the 23-year-old goalkeeper, called upon to make three saves through the 90 minutes en route to the first clean-sheet of his MLS career, but when those moments came he was equal to them, keeping the game scoreless when Enzo Copetti twice broke in behind the Toronto defenses.

“[To stay engaged] is the biggest thing for keepers,” Gavran agreed afterwards. “In some games, when your team is carrying the momentum and you have nothing to do, you don't see the ball as much, that one chance, whether it comes in the 35th or the 90th minute, you’ve got to be ready for it.”

“That's a big thing we've been training on – one-vs-ones, really trusting myself to stay set, don't guess – and it really paid off there,” he elaborated. “I stayed up, read him. I'm happy that I kept my team in the game and we went from there.”

Saturday was a day packed with moments. Lorenzo Insigne’s game-winning screamer proved the difference on the field, but the addition of Michael Bradley’s face to TFC Legends row and Ashtone Morgan walking out Bitchy the Harris hawk to her prematch perch warmed the hearts of those who have long weathered the capricious weather of BMO Field.

And come the 62nd minute the newest addition to Toronto FC was welcomed to the fold with Matty Longstaff subbing in for Alonso Coello.

“What did you think?” replied Herdman, asked about Longstaff’s debut. “Pretty solid.”

“With Matty, his passing ability, he can control the tempo of the game, things changed when he came on. Prince [Owusu] stretching the line a bit more also helped,” he continued. “Longstaff is building. It was nice to hear the fans give him a big reception, they were excited to see him. It’s just great to see another Geordie out there fighting for TFC.”


The forward drive the 23-year-old brings was evident in this opening half hour, his interplay with Bernardeschi up that right-channel nearly came to fruition immediately and will only develop further with time.

“Great debut, came into a game that's not easy to come into and showed he wasn't scared,” said Osorio.

“He was brave. He played the moment.”

“He has experienced playing at the highest level of football in the world, he's going to bring a lot of that to our team,” he continued. “He's still young, he still has that energy that he's going to bring to us, and he has quality as well. Matty is going to be an important piece going forward.”