Voices: Kevin Egan

360 View: Is John Herdman's Toronto FC a serious contender?

Egan column - MD16 - Herdman

​​Hello there, folks. Welcome back to 360 View.

Last week’s double match week bonanza was bonkers! I loved every second of it on the #MLS360 desk, as well as jumping in for Liam McHugh on MLS Wrap-Up.

Before I get to some of this week’s MLS 360 takes, let’s spotlight some of the underrated stars of the 2024 season. In my view, they should be in the MLS All-Star conversation.

Jared Stroud – The Stroud brothers are rockin’ it this year. Peter has been outstanding for the New York Red Bulls, only for an ankle injury to derail his momentum. And Jared has been doing his best David Beckham impression for his new team, D.C. United. Stroud has seven assists this season and seems to have a telepathic relationship with both defender Aaron Herrera and Golden Boot candidate Christian Benteke.

Cole Bassett – When Djordje Mihailovic joined the Colorado Rapids, Bassett moved into a deeper-lying role. Man, has that worked out beautifully. A classy player, and a wonderful reader of the game, Bassett is having a standout year. So much that I’d argue he’s Colorado’s MVP so far.

Jáder Obrian – Who saw this coming? Not me. Obrian is a Re-Entry Draft revelation! Dynamic, fun to watch and clinical, Obrian was deservedly alongside Lionel Messi and Benteke up front in a recent Team of the Matchday. Austin are making moves in the market too, so watch out for Los Verde!

Robin Lod – Can we stop acting surprised when Lod surpasses all expectations? The Finn is a Loons legend. He was asked to be their creator when Emanuel Reynoso no-showed, and Robin said “no problem.” He’s a gem.

Now, here are some opinions that stood out to me from this past Saturday’s MLS 360. As always, they’re from my brilliant teammates Kaylyn Kyle, Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Sacha: Herdman is a magician

Toronto FC recorded their largest-ever victory over rival CF Montréal in last weekend’s Canadian Classique, as Federico Bernardeschi hit a sensational hat trick in the 5-1 rout. The Reds are now fifth in the Eastern Conference, and with Lorenzo Insigne back fit and healthy, this may be the beginning of something special.

My bud Sacha Kljestan says he still wouldn’t consider Toronto a top-end contender this season, and while I tend to disagree, I was impressed with Sacha’s point of praise for TFC.

"What really stands out to me was what John Herdman told us pregame. Saying he’s not from Toronto, but seven or eight of those guys are. And when we all signed on to play for this club, we signed on to defend this city. Toronto understood they were in a derby game. Montréal didn't. Maybe TFC don't have the same quality as Miami or Cincinnati, but they could make up for that with what we're seeing: buy-in, cohesion, good coaching, and an understanding of what makes them good.

“John Herdman obviously has a way with people. He’s worked some magic. The most important thing is that he’s changed the culture in Toronto.”

I agree, Sacha! And that’s why I feel Toronto need to be in that contender conversation.

Herdman’s men host defending Supporters' Shield champions FC Cincinnati on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), and a home win could force Sacha to change his tune.

Kaylyn: Campana destined to deliver

As some of you may know, Kaylyn is a rockstar. Oh, she’s also a World Cup vet and an Olympic Medalist. Ohhh, and she’s also a former Miami resident, where she served as a TV host for Inter Miami games. Kaylyn knows a lot about the club, especially their more seasoned players.

One of those guys is Leo Campana. Kaylyn jumps at any chance to wax lyrical about his qualities and work ethic. Such as: "One of the hardest workers I've seen. Always the first one to training and last to leave. Always doing extra.”

And when Campana produced a heroic cameo last week, scoring the match-winner for Miami 17 seconds after entering against D.C. United, that wasn’t a shock to Kaylyn.

“You guys will be stunned, but I’m not surprised at all by his instant impact. His attitude and enthusiasm is always there for all to see. Miami will lean on him this season, and Campana will produce. He’ll do anything to grab his opportunities, and he’s the perfect player to turn to”.

Miami face the longest trip possible in MLS play, jetting off to Vancouver this Saturday (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). Especially with Leo Messi and Luis Suárez not making the cross-continent trip, Campana could seize the day.

BWP: NYCFC's young stars are coming of age

Speaking of contenders, I was surprised when Gio Savarese said New York City FC’s form has been so good that you have to consider them contenders.

Nick Cushing has worked wonders with this team. They’ve gone from one win in seven, to now six wins in the following seven. Absolutely remarkable. And it’s not just the results; it’s the swagger and confidence this team is playing with. It’s brilliant to watch.

So much that New York Red Bulls (!) legend Bradley Wright-Phillips was full of praise after last weekend’s statement win in the Hudson River Derby at Citi Field.

“When I spoke about NYCFC earlier this season, I said they were a team full of potential, but they needed to start coming of age. Certain stars needed to put the team on their back. Everyone’s stepped up and been so good. This team is for real."

NYCFC sit third in the East, and they’ll be favorites on the road this Saturday when visiting the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).