Toronto FC beat the New England Revolution 1-0 at Foxborough with an incredible chip goal by Lorenzo Insigne in the first half. The Reds played with heart and passion in every moment of the game. 

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was, once again, one of the most important players on the pitch with six saves and a few of them in the last minutes of the game to get John Herdman his first win as Toronto FC head coach.

TFC started the game with a 3-4-2-1, making only one change from the last game against Cincinnati because of Richie Laryea’s injury. This time, Raoul Petretta played as left wingback and Nicksoen Gomis took Petretta’s position as left centre-back. 

The battle

The game began with a lot of energy and passion by Toronto, especially with Deybi Flores, who had four tackles and five clearances in the match. At first, Herdman’s team couldn’t push past the middle of the field, but they looked comfortable giving the Revs the ball and playing from a counterattack position, similar to how they played against Cincinnati FC.

Insigne had the first great chance to open the score with a big shot that came very close to the goal defended by goalkeeper Henrich Ravas. The occasion came from good high pressure by Toronto. 

In the 21st minute, the referee went to check a possible penalty by Flores after the Honduran took the ball away from Carles Gil on the first tackle and then hit Esmir Bajraktarevic on a second clearance. But no penalty was given as the referee judged Flores to have gotten the ball first before going into Esmir.

The possession was all for the New England Revolution, and it looked like Herdman wanted it that way. His team was a wall, with the best opportunity coming from a lost ball created from an errant pass. 

In the 28th minute, Lorenzo Insigne came up with a game-changing play. The Italian had the space and time to the ball and put it on the top right corner of the goal, hitting the net and giving Toronto the lead. 

Toronto was dangerous in the counterattack, which was the only way to hurt the Revs’ defence. The possession game didn’t work in the first half of the game. 

The Reds thought they had a second goal, but an offside disallowed Prince Owusu’s goal. However, the buildup through Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi was promising.

Insigne was subbed off after the first half, a move pre-planned by Herdman who had said before the game he didn’t want to force the player on the turf. Bernardeschi took his place and Kobe Franklin took Berna’s position. 

Herdman noticed the problem passing the ball from their own box to the midfield, and in the second half, Toronto was more precise, moving the ball more vertically and less horizontally between the centre-backs. 

After an hour, it looked like New England didn’t know how to approach Toronto’s defence. Herdman said he wanted to slow down Gil and knew the best way to do it was in the centre of the field. 

Flores, again, came on the clutch to do the dirty work. He was everywhere, from the midfield to the box. Even when caught out, the intensity of the pressure gave time for a teammate to cover and help.

The best opportunity for Revs came at the 64th minute but didn’t count because of offside.

At the very next minute, Owusu went off and Ayo Akinola went in, a smart move as Owusu was being played out of the match. The German player had an easy opportunity to score at the beginning of the game but sent the ball away. 

The last 15 minutes of the game was all New England except for a crossbar hit by Jonathan Osorio in the 74th minute. That didn’t mean the Revs were superior; TFC gave away the ball and felt comfortable doing it. 

In added time, New England had two big chances to tie the game, but Sean Johnson closed the door and maintained the advantage for Toronto. 

The insides

Besides only having 36 per cent possession of the ball, Toronto was superior. In their two MLS matches so far, they have started to establish themselves as a defensive team, the only club that hasn’t allowed a single goal so far. This is a great improvement after conceding 59 goals in 2023.

It is also the first time since October 2020 that Toronto achieved clean sheets in back-to-back away games and their first away win since Aug. 27, 2022. 

Herdman said after the game that after adapting to the field, they got control and were able to score. The game went how they wanted it to be and was a great game by the back 5. 

This is the first time in TFC history they had consecutive clean sheets to begin an MLS campaign. 

What is next?

Toronto FC returns home for their debut at BMO Field after a great start on the road. 

The Reds will face Charlotte FC on March 9 at 2 p.m. The North Carolina team comes into Toronto fresh off a 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps yesterday.