The frustration simmering around Toronto FC boiled over after their gut-punch 1-0 loss at Austin FC Saturday night, as Italian star Federico Bernardeschi sounded off about the Reds’ tactics and results – and called for “change.”
Gyasi Zardes’ 91st-minute winner at Q2 Stadium consigned TFC to their fourth loss in five across all competitions, leaving them at the foot of the Eastern Conference standings. Showpiece attacker Lorenzo Insigne did not dress after picking up another injury concern at midweek, plus has now missed half of the Reds’ 2023 league matches to date. And with less than 38% of possession on the night, Toronto failed to direct a single shot on target in central Texas.
“I'm so proud of the team because the team and the teammates put everything in the field,” said Bernardeschi afterward. “This is the most important things for me, because playing like this is difficult for everybody, and I think especially the young guys put everything in the field, and this is the most important because we don't play. We play long pass, we don't have idea to play.
“Sincerely, this team, this city, the fans, everybody don't deserve this, and I think maybe we need to change something. We need to [have] a little bit more tactics. We need an idea of how we play because this is the real problem for me. It's impossible to play like this when we play without [an] idea. This is the big problem for me.”
Asked to elaborate, the Italian international painted an unflattering picture of the game model under head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley, alluding to the bevy of youngsters, most of them academy products, who have been called upon to contribute amid heavy injury issues this season and last.
“We don't have a construction in the game. When the player has the ball, we don't know how to pass the ball,” said the former Juventus mainstay.
“This is the real problem, because we don't train about that," continued the 29-year-old. "We lose every game. We tie, we lose, we tie, we lose. Sometimes we win. But I can't believe this sincerely. This is no good for the young players. They need to get better, no? And grow up with an idea of football, and the players with personality, they need to help, help us to understand and follow the idea of football. But we need the idea of football. This is the real situation.”
The latest twist in the TFC saga arrives on the heels of the MLS Players Association’s release of salary information which confirmed the club to be the league’s highest spender on wages. MLSPA figures show Insigne and Bernardeschi (both among the top-four earners) alone making more in combined guaranteed annual compensation than the outlined payrolls of over one-third (11) of MLS clubs.
Hampered by injuries and difficulties in settling, Insigne has scored one goal in 484 league minutes in the current campaign and notched 6g/2a in 926 minutes after arriving in midseason last year. Bernardeschi has tallied 11g/6a in his first 2,278 MLS minutes. Previously, they both were Serie A standouts.
“I think every player created by himself, because when a player has the ball, we don't have an idea to the movement of another player,” said the Designated Player. “If you create it by yourself, good. But if maybe there are three, four players around you, it's impossible.
“It's difficult to play like this. This is the reality, OK?” he later added. “I think the guys have to be proud about [their] job in the field, every game, every game, because I saw every game and I see and I saw every training the young guys, the experienced guys, and they put everything in the field. This is the real thing, and for me, we need maybe something different.”
Adding salt to TFC’s wounds is their brief Canadian Championship run, cut short by CF Montreal earlier this month and further compounded by a league loss to their Canadian Classique rivals a few days later.
The Reds close out May with two home games vs. D.C. United and Chicago Fire FC before a daunting June in which they visit Minnesota United FC, league leaders FC Cincinnati and New England in addition to a home date with Nashville SC.