Matchday

Herdman: Insigne & Bernardeschi can create "new future" at Toronto FC

Bernardeschi Insigne - Toronto FC

Will Toronto FC’s 2023 MLS regular-season finale on Saturday (6 pm ET | MLS Season Pass) against Orlando City SC potentially serve as a farewell match for Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi?

If new head coach John Herdman gets his way, Decision Day won’t be the last we see of the superstar Italian duo in TFC uniforms.

“What I want to do is convince them that there is a new future here,” Herdman, who departed the Canadian men’s national team in August to take the reins at Toronto, told Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press in a recent interview. “And with their ability and their experiences, they can create that new future."

While Insigne and Bernardeschi both have long-term deals in place (through the summer and end of 2026, respectively), there’s been plenty of speculation surrounding the centerpieces of Toronto’s rebuild project under Bob Bradley leaving this winter. Bradley, the club's former head coach and sporting director, was let go in late June as the Reds labored near the bottom of the league standings en route to a guaranteed Wooden Spoon finish this year.

TFC’s struggles, in part, have been pinned on the high-priced duo amid reported locker-room issues and not fully meeting the lofty expectations that followed their summer 2022 arrivals from Serie A. Insigne was at boyhood side Napoli, and Bernardeschi arrived from Juventus.

Still, Herdman has observed a “fire” in both players since joining in early October, first from afar as interim coach Terry Dunfield remained temporarily in charge before the Englishman took full control.

Herdman also likened the Italians' situation to that of Houston Dynamo FC All-Star Héctor Herrera, arguably one of the league’s best midfielders this season (4g/15a) after a disappointing first half-season in MLS upon joining from LaLiga's Atlético Madrid.

“One of the top-five players in MLS in my opinion,” Herdman said of the Mexican international. “So hopefully this second year [in 2024] for those players [Insigne and Bernardeschi], it could be what TFC needs to get us to a quick championship mentality, spirit tactical framework. Because they have the ability.”

But Herdman made equally clear he only wants players who are 100% committed to changing the fortunes of a TFC side that’s lost 14 of their last 15 league games. He’s already backed up these words with actions, prematurely ending Franco Ibarra’s loan from Atlanta United last week.

“Guys that are fully invested either in fighting to be here next year or fighting to change the mentality, the culture, the tactical style to get us ready to do what we want to do next year, which is to find that next level,” Herdman said.

For more from Herdman, check out the full story here.