Toronto FC ride Lorenzo Insigne "magic" to first win of Herdman era


John Herdman demanded change at Toronto FC this season. He certainly got it from Lorenzo Insigne and Sean Johnson in Sunday’s 1-0 win at the New England Revolution.

A pinpoint chip golazo from the Italian international, combined with a six-save performance from the USMNT goalkeeper, sealed TFC’s first win of the Herdman era and kept the club undefeated on the young season at 1W-0L-1D.

After just two matches, last year’s Wooden Spoon recipients have four points – nearly a quarter of the league-worst 22 they managed in all of 2023. Sunday’s result was also their first road win since August 2022.

Insigne sets the example

Chief among the targets of criticism for these underwhelming numbers has been Insigne, whose blockbuster 2022 arrival – along with that of fellow Italian superstar Federico Bernardeschi – has yet to translate into success for the club.

“You see his magic. He really does bring a different tempo to our game and quality,” Herdman said post-match of Insigne, revealing he pulled the Italian at the break to keep him off the Gillette Stadium turf as much as possible.

“It was planned from the start: start strong and get that goal before halftime as well. That was his mission, to put us in a strong situation. And he did that.”

Johnson had just as much praise for what Insigne brings to the group, particularly during the early stages of the 2024 campaign.

“To be honest I’ve seen that one too many times in training against him, so it’s nice to see it against an opponent,” Johnson joked of the Napoli legend’s 27th-minute stunner.

“He’s got unbelievable mobility attacking. He and Fede, what they do for us … they’ve really taken the responsibility on their shoulders to really set an example for this group. They’ve been really great, and I think everybody’s following their lead.”

Johnson to the rescue

Johnson in particular stepped up, most notably with a finger-tip save to deny Matt Polster’s goal-bound equalizer in stoppage time.

“Saves like that from Sean Johnson are gonna keep us there,” Herdman said of the former MLS Cup champion with New York City FC, who has two straight clean sheets to start the season. “He made some good saves last week and he’ll continue to make good saves – that’s what teams that win championships do.”

On that note, Herdman added that Insigne, Johnson, Bernardeschi and TFC’s supporting cast can not only rise from the depths of the Eastern Conference, but compete with the league's elite.

“For us, our big players are coming big,” Herdman declared. “And that’ll need to last throughout the whole season if we’re gonna push."