Lorenzo Insigne was still searching for his first MLS goal entering Week 24, but the Italian national team forward couldn't have ended that quest much more emphatically than in Toronto FC's Saturday night matchup at Nashville SC.
With the 31-year-old Designated Player's team nursing a 3-2 lead in the 77th minute, Insigne showed why he's one of the season's most-heralded new arrivals at any MLS club, evading two defenders and uncorking a distance strike. It was a finish head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley dubbed "a classic Lorenzo goal" during his postgame press conference, and wound up standing as the game-winner in the eventual 4-3 victory at GEODIS Park.
Teammate Jonathan Osorio, who aided Toronto's cause with a brace on Saturday, said he was left in awe with everyone else when the ball hit the back of the net. Insigne, playing in his third league game for TFC, arrived this summer from Serie A's Napoli.
"Amazing goal. I think he's been looking for it," Osorio said. "It's a shame, I think he's been doing really well in the games that he's been here. He's also still getting fit and used to the league. I'm sure the pressure from the outside is that he has to score every game, but as long as he keeps performing, that's what we need from him. But today he got his goal and we're all so happy for him. His goal shows the quality that he has."
Lorenzo Insigne scores first MLS goal with Toronto FC
With Insigne's first goal out of the way, the Reds are confident more awaits from the dynamic Italian, who signed a pre-contract last winter and is the centerpiece of their remade roster under the ex-LAFC boss.
"He's a competitor," Bradley said of Insigne. "Obviously we see him getting fitter every week, doing more and more. And to be able to get his first goal, it came at a good time."
Road woes extinguished
Coming into the match, Toronto hadn't taken a three-point result away from BMO Field in over a full calendar year, with their last away victory coming on July 24, 2021 at Chicago Fire FC – a span of 378 days.
That dubious stat no longer applies following Saturday's victory, which Bradley agreed was an important hurdle for the group to overcome.
"Definitely important," Bradley said. "We've talked throughout the year about mentality when you go away, being able to play from the start of games to the very end, concentration. We've had some moments where we thought that part was going alright, some of the draws were fair enough.
"But in other moments we had points that slipped away from us and I think getting that first away win was something that everybody feels good about."
Toronto still have a lofty task in front of them, as the Reds remain in 13th place on the Eastern Conference table with 26 points (7W-12L-5D record). But in a log-jammed East, that still only puts them four points shy of the postseason cutoff line with 10 games left.
Going forward, Osorio said the hope is Saturday's win could act as a springboard for a stretch run that gets his team back in the mix.
"We understand the situation that we're in, on the table and everything," Osorio said. "Every game now is a final from here on forward. It's huge, the fact that it's an away win as well, I think that gives the group a lot of confidence and a big three points. A couple of things to clean up, we're aware of, for sure, but we'll clean those up and I think this is huge going forward and we're going to use this game to build off of."
It's been a whirlwind 72 hours for Canadian international right back Richie Laryea, who made his return to the pitch for Toronto on Saturday, just one day after it was officially announced he's rejoined the club on loan from Nottingham Forest through the summer of 2023. After the match, the 27-year-old recounted a hectic journey he experienced from England back to Toronto, then to Nashville to start the match, all in a three-day span.
Now that he's arrived, Laryea adds another new element to a club already integrating new players across the roster, bringing with him a skill set that has been provenly effective in MLS. Laryea emerged as one of the league's best two-way fullbacks in his original stint with Toronto from 2019-21, scoring eight goals and racking up nine assists in 89 appearances (61 starts) before earning a reported $1 million transfer to the now-Premier League side.
Those attributes were already on display Saturday, as Laryea had an active shift that included drawing the penalty kick that was converted by Federico Bernardeschi in the 54th minute.
"Obviously the love I have for this club is unconditional," said Laryea, who logged 64 minutes before getting replaced by homegrown Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty.
"So, being back here and playing with the team I signed with before and then joining up with some new guys that I've never played with before, it was cool, it was nice. I don't take it lightly playing for this club and representing this club, it's done a lot for me and my family. So it's always good to put on this shirt here."
HIGHLIGHTS: Nashville SC vs. Toronto FC | August 06, 2022