Toronto FC received some good news this week.
Lorenzo Insigne, who has been sidelined since the season opener against D.C. United, is back in training and nearing a return to the pitch.
“Lorenzo trained a little bit yesterday/today, he’ll be in the squad,” confirmed Bob Bradley on Friday. “He wouldn't be available for many minutes after only two days of training, but it's great to have him back and part of the mix.”
Be excited, his teammates are.
“A guy with that quality, it's always nice to have him on the pitch,” said Brandon Servania, who has yet to play alongside Insigne after joining the team after D.C. “Just seeing him back in training is nice. Can't wait until he can get back in a game with us.”
TRAINING SOUND | BRANDON SERVANIA - APRIL 14, 2023
It was also confirmed that Matt Hedges would not be available this weekend, as he undergoes concussion protocols following that awkward header against Nashville last Saturday in a 0-0 draw and his half-time departure.
That draw in Nashville was TFC’s fifth of the season. It extended the unbeaten streak to six matches, but also confirmed something Bob Bradley said after the 2-2 draw against Charlotte at the start of the month: margins are thin for TFC at the moment.
Only once through seven matches has the score been decided by more than a single goal: Toronto’s 2-0 win over Inter Miami CF. Through the five draws and the 3-2 loss away to D.C. United, a single goal would have tipped the scales in TFC's favour.
“You have to make plays,” underlined Bradley. “Your margin gets bigger when you make plays.”
“When you create a moment where there's a chance for a player to take a good touch and finish or receive a ball and make the next pass, give the ball that sets up his teammate for a big chance,” he outlined. “If you put yourself in those positions, but you don't come away with big chances and goals, then the game always hangs in the balance.”
“All our games so far have been tight, competitive. We've had moments in all the games where we've created good situations, our play from the back, through the middle, generally has been quite good, defensively, as a team, we're far more solid,” Bradley highlighted. “We haven't given away as many chances in transition, but now we've got to also take advantage of some of the moments that we create.”
TRAINING SOUND | BOB BRADLEY - APRIL 14, 2023
The players are well aware.
“We've been talking about that as a group, how the margins have been small lately,” said Servania. “We need to have a little bit more quality in the final third to get some goals and finish off some chances, that will turn those draws into three points.”
Interestingly enough, Saturday will be a replay of the match where TFC created the fewest chances.
A 1-1 draw back on March 4 left Bob Bradley dissatisfied with how his team was pinned back and under pressure.
Toronto did well limiting Atlanta to half-chances and took the lead through Federico Bernardeschi on one of their few forays forward, only to be pegged back by a pair of deflections on a Matheus Rossetto shot.
Both sides will have grown a lot in the ensuing six weeks.
“They've had more time to work [Giorgos] Giakoumakis in. He's a good player, good striker, good movement,” noted Bradley, asked about the difference between then and now. “They have good ideas as an attacking team. They're a good team, so we know that we have to play well.”
Giakoumakis, who made his MLS debut off the bench in the last meeting, has three goals in five appearances.
“We've got to find ways to still control the game and have a little bit more possession than we did there and then we've got a deal well with the way they like to play,” he continued. “They hit a lot of big diagonal balls, so you've got to be prepared, can't be too narrow in different moments, the positioning of our full-backs is really important.”
“And [Thiago] Almada is a really good player,” Bradley cautioned. “So keeping an eye on him, trying to take away his ability, his time on the ball to look up and survey and play the passes he wants because he's got a great eye for passes. If you can close him down and force him to play the ball square and backwards more it helps.”
Almada leads the way for the Five Stripes with four goals and three assists.
Atlanta has lost just once through seven matches, a heavy 6-1 defeat away to the Columbus Crew at the end of March.
A 1-0 win at home over the New York Red Bulls and a 1-1 draw away to NYCFC last weekend have seen them bounce back.
With the news that Brad Guzan will be sidelined with an MCL injury, a familiar face is likely to feature in goal for Atlanta: former Red Quentin Westberg joined them in the off-season.
“First, I feel bad for Brad, coached him with US,” said Bradley. “Great guy who was an important part of our teams.”
“They signed Q with the idea that they would have an experienced backup,” he added. “Q had a lot of good games during his time in Toronto. We know him well.”
Old friend or no, TFC will have one thing on their mind come kickoff.
“They have some very talented players that we need to watch out for, but as long as we focus on what we can do, we can get the points,” Servania honed in. “The points are definitely the biggest thing on our minds right now; that's what we're focused on.”