Toronto FC opens the season at home versus Charlotte FC at 2 p.m. after two outstanding away games against Cincinnati FC and New England Revolution. The Reds want to win back the trust of their fans, and their defensive performance to stay undefeated this season has been key to regaining that trust. 

“The first step was not losing in Cincy. The second step was winning in New England and being the only team with two clean sheets in the MLS. It takes time and would take time,” head coach John Herdman said before the game.

The home opener comes with hope for TFC fans as the club expects at least 25,000 in the stands. For a team that finished in the bottom two spots of the Eastern Conference in the last three years, fans are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

The power Of friendship 

Something has changed from the last three seasons to this one. There is a collective effort from all players. Normally, this effort comes when every player believes in the team; they fight for each other and not just for themselves.

“We’re very close to each other,” Federico Bernardeschi said at the start of the season on Apple TV. “There is not a close team without a family, a brotherhood. Without that, you will never win.”

You can see on every play how the team fights every single ball, especially on defence. Not only the starting team, but the bench players give it all when they enter the field. 

The Frenchman Nicksoen Gomis is a great example. He started the last game because of Richie Laryea’s injury and made some clutch defensive plays to give Toronto the clean sheet, recording three clearances, one blocked shot, one interception and 42 of 48 passes completed. 

The third final

Toronto showed they are on their revenge tour, and every game looks like a final. Now, they face Charlotte FC who won against New York City FC 1-0 in front of more than 60,000 people and tied 1-1 against the Whitecaps in their visit to Vancouver. 

“This is a very difficult opponent, not the type you want in your first match at home. They can make the game very ugly, very quickly,” Herdman said. 

“We have a great game in New England, but we can’t let this get to our heads. We have to stay concentrated and focused for the home opener,” Lorenzo Insigne said after a training session in the BMO Field this week. Insigne also won the Goal of the Matchday last week with a beautiful chip. 

Charlotte FC is a difficult opponent, especially on offence. They average nine shots per game, five on target, win 52 per cent of their duels and commit 12 faults per game according to Sofascore. 

For this home match, Toronto will be without Deandre Kerr (calf) and Laryea (thigh). 

Laryea was a key player for Herdman’s formation against Cincinnati, but the team looked as good without him when Raoul Petretta stepped up as wingback and Gomis started his first game at centre-back versus New England.

Room for improvement 

The 3-4-2-1 gave Toronto FC the strength on defence they needed, yet they still struggled on attack. The main problem is Prince Owusu’s disconnection, which gives the feeling that TFC is attacking without a striker. 

Herdman cleaned up the lost balls in the passing game against New England in the second half making the team more solid. He now has to involve Owusu in the attack. 

Owusu scored one goal that was disallowed because of an offside, but he missed a big chance on the easy header against the Revs. 

Ayo Akinola isn’t the answer either. He has only scored four goals in his last 55 games and hasn’t scored a goal since the 2021-22 season. 

This has to be Herdman’s main concern if he wants Toronto FC to be a contender this season.