Toronto FC beat Charlotte FC 1-0 in their home opener in front of 26,345 fans. It was another defensive masterpiece from head coach John Herdman’s boys, giving them their second win of the season.

They need two more wins to tie their last year’s win record.

Herdman changed his starting XI in an effort to change the attacking game, benching Prince Owusu and putting Jonathan Osorio on as a false nine. 

Sean Johnson was out for the game because of an unexpected injury, which meant the Hamilton-born goalkeeper Luka Gavran started the game instead. He surprised everyone with his great performance. 

“We suffer in games, [but] today was a different kind of suffering than the New England game. We could easily get frustrated, but I think this team is becoming mentally very strong, and we believe in each other,” Jonathan Osorio said after the game. 

The Reds struggled to make inroads because of a well-organized defence from Charlotte FC, but an incredible goal by Lorenzo Insigne gave them the win. 

First half

Toronto FC started the game with a big chance that Federico Bernardeschi couldn’t finish. From then, it was an exchange of attacks between the two sides. 

In the 5th minute, Charlotte had a big chance to put the score in their favour from a corner, but the shot went just wide of the right goalpost. 

TFC didn’t know how to approach Charlotte’s defence. They tried to attack from the wing but The Crown was superior (by numbers) in every part of the field. They had four players around every TFC midfielder. 

Toronto had the majority of possession, but Charlotte had the attack. By the 22nd minute, Charlotte had their fourth corner. Gavran punched the ball. Enzo Copetti attempted to head in the rebound, but Gavran, once again, held on for the easy save.

In the 40th minute, Gavran made an incredible save off Coppetti’s shot on the 1v1.

Second half

Charlotte’s lack of commitment to the attack was apparent. They played into Toronto’s defence numerous times but left three or four players back each time, seemingly worrying about the home side’s counterattack rather than any positive movement for themselves.

The game slowed down as the half progressed. Toronto FC felt comfortable giving the ball to Charlotte in this half (TFC had 63 per cent of the possession in the first half).

In the 60th minute, Toronto had one of their most dangerous opportunities. Kobe Franklin crossed the ball to Jonathan Osorio who controlled it and passed to Bernardeschi. But Charlotte’s goalkeeper, Kristijan Kahlina, stopped the ball that was directed to the middle of the goal. 

Out of nowhere, Insigne took the ball and put it in the same place as in the last game against New England. This time he cut in from the wing outside the box, hitting a superb ball in the 80th minute for the only goal of the match.

The whole stadium roared at one sound after Insigne’s masterpiece. 

Another display of great coaching

Herdman looked at the attacking issue and tried playing with a false nine, which didn’t work. But he showed he’s capable of changing styles to get the job done. 

A new tactic he employed was to use Nicksoen Gomis as an additional midfielder coming from the centre-back. This helped Toronto when they faced Charlotte’s “double defence” (when they put two lines in their half of the field as though they were CBs as well).

Matty Longstaff made his debut in the second half and was pretty solid. 

“He’s good. He can control the game. It changed when he came on,” Herdman said about the former Newcastle player.

The insides

  • Bernardeschi made his 50th appearance for Toronto FC across all competitions.
  • This was the ninth home opener win and their first since March 7, 2020, against New York City. 
  • It was the sixth home opener win with a clean sheet for Toronto FC.
  • Toronto FC became the fifth MLS team to open the season with three straight clean sheets.
  • It is the second time in club history Toronto has won at least seven points in the first three matches.
  • It was Osorio’s 300th MLS game.