Toronto FC combines homegrown talent, European stars in hopes of creating a winning club

Toronto FC combines homegrown talent, European stars in hopes of creating a winning club

As Toronto FC continues to build a new-look mid-season squad, their latest move brings Canadian Richie Laria back home to Toronto.

Adding Laria isn’t just adding any defender, he has a rich history with the team. Lairya was signed as a free agent back in 2019 and became a key player in Toronto FC’s Eastern Conference championship that same year. He also helped the team to its second-best record during the 2020 MLS regular season.

“The fact that he’s playing with these guys and the things that we’ve been trying to work on all year, it all means something to him,” Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley said.

“It’s not difficult for him to come in and show that he has the qualities that really make a difference and help us. His mentality to get here quickly and get on the field was really important.

A member of Canada’s men’s national team, along with fellow Reds Jonathan Osorio, Marc-Anthony Kaye and Donnell Henry, Laria has shown Canadian soccer prominence at the international level.

The full-back has returned on loan from newly promoted Premier League side Nottingham Forest, who finished second in the Championship last season.

Laria and Osorio’s chemistry was on Toronto’s second goal of the night against Nashville SC on August 6 as Toronto took the lead for the second time after allowing Nashville to equalize.

Being able to spend minimal time training with the team, yet still having enough talent to make an impact to help turn the season around – Toronto is now undefeated in their last three regular season games – is indeed The reason was that Laria was brought back.

“We love him here at the club. I think it’s very clear how much we value him and it shows with the lengths they went to to get him back here,” Jonathan Osorio said. said after the game in Nashville.

After signing three Italian players to the team that will debut in July, Toronto has now also acquired three Canadian players to bolster their roster, underscoring the talent available to them from their own backyard.

The arrival of Lorenzo Insigne in Toronto — a delayed one, finally pitching on July 23 after his July 9 debut was pushed back by a calf injury — and the signings of Federico Bernardeschi and Domenico Cristo. It was due to the immediate need for improvement.

These signings showed promise in their early days. Bernardeschi scored a goal and an assist, with Insigne adding another, in a 4–0 home win over eighth-placed Charlotte FC.

Against Nashville, the same duo would find the back of the net as Ansgen scored his first Toronto FC goal, while Bernardeschi finished the night once again with a goal and an assist.

The signings weren’t as simple as adding to an already talented squad. TFC sent 2020 MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo to Inter Miami for $150,000 USD in general allocation money, freeing up a designated player spot as they prepare to sign Bernardeschi.

It became clear that with such moves, Toronto FC wanted to become a winning club again, just five years removed from winning the MLS Cup in 2017.

Still, at the heart of all of Toronto’s ups and downs are the players who have been through it all: the homegrown Canadians who once kept Toronto FC’s heads above water, key cogs in the machine that we are now. What are the best parts?

Two weeks before the arrival of Insigne and Bernardsechi, when Cristo made his debut against the San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto FC found themselves in a very familiar position. TFC were giving an opponent a goal that they should have easily overcome in the 25th minute of the game.

As the Reds continued to battle, Canadian Deandre Kerr again put Toronto FC level. Not even three minutes later, Osorio, another Canadian, chipped in a shot to take the lead.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie as an injury-time goal from goalkeeper Quentin Westberg’s deflection allowed San Jose to take a point back. However, the work of the two Canadians in four minutes showed that there was a solid foundation for Toronto FC throughout.

Their tenacity and willingness to adapt is what made them so important to the team, with Kerr tallying 1,116 minutes in 19 games this season as a 19-year-old.

“Like any other position I’ve played, every coach asks me to play, every system I play, and I feel comfortable in it,” Kerr said.

Fast forward to the night Italian football fans have been waiting months for. One where Insigne created five chances and Bernardeschi was clearly making an immediate impact upon arrival. Lost in the joy was that other faces had played their part in the victory.

Kai, another newly acquired midfielder, quietly collected two assists on the night. Henry also made his mark when the club desperately needed a centre-back.

TFC acquired Kaye from Colorado Rapids for Canadian Ralph Presso in general allocation money of $1.025M, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2023 international roster spot. While many were saddened by giving up Presso, a young midfielder with a high ceiling, those in charge knew Key’s role would be important for Toronto.

“Mark is a good player, he knows the ideas of how we want to play, when we talk about the midfield three, he knows how to connect with the other two, he has a good position, he is a good Passer.” Bradley said.

“Mark is a long way ahead of where Ralph is. I think Ralph is a good young player, and with all young players there is talent, there are good guys, but then there is a growth process in the team. , are becoming guys who can be counted on.

Kaye played for Toronto FC III in Semi-Pro League One Ontario in 2014 and for TFC II of the USL Championship in 2015. He has shown tenacity and commitment in making the first team roster from the USL to the MLS. Canada on the international scene.

In between finding his feet in the professional leagues, it was Bradley who once brought Kai to Los Angeles FC for their first season in 2018. .

When the time was right to bring Kai home and continue to create an environment for Canadian soccer to thrive in Toronto, Bradley did it.

Additionally, Corney Osorio is tied as the club’s leading scorer this season with eight goals and six assists, while Kerr has added three goals – the most on the team during their 2022 campaign. Good for fifth.

The addition of Henry with other Canadians who already had chemistry was crucial as Toronto FC rebuilt at the midpoint. A center back was needed, and who better than someone who has a history with his new teammates.

Goalkeeper Alex Bono said: “You watch the tape of this lad, he (Henry) is a monster too, he is a big lad, he can move his body and he is strong in the tackle. Don’t be afraid.”

“He had in the second half (against Charlotte), I can’t tell you what I told him, but I was surprised about it, I was happy to see it. It’s great to have him, it The center backs add to the house where they all have different strengths.

After a successful night in Nashville, winning their toughest battle and the team’s first road win of the season, Toronto FC had more to celebrate than just getting back in the win column.

It was the perfect mix of talented Europeans who were worth the wait, the spark the team needed, while showing that much of the talent they already had was homegrown.

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