Toronto FC searching for "positive light" after another Canadian Classique defeat


What’s more difficult than losing to your biggest rival? Losing to them twice, less than a week apart.

Four days after Toronto FC were eliminated by CF Montréal in the 2023 Canadian Championship, the Reds were once again defeated by their MLS rival in the Canadian Classique on Saturday, losing 2-0 at Stade Saputo.

For a side that boasts star-studded talent headlined by Italian national team forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, the latest derby loss ensures Toronto have now collected just two wins from 12 league matches this season (2W-4L-6D) and have slipped into last place in the Eastern Conference table. It's a tough reality for a proud club with sky-high expectations after missing the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs each of the last two seasons.

“We’re going through a tough stretch,” admitted head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley post-game. “The work every day is to keep everybody going with a belief that there are things that we're doing that are still positive. We haven't had much to show for it yet. If we can fight through this stretch, get some more guys healthy, keep improving … there is a positive light at the end of all this."

“Trust me, we are as frustrated and disappointed as anyone else in the world,” added midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. “So we will deal with that first and foremost in our locker room and continue to work and make sure we are ready to go on Wednesday.”

The Reds were missing 10 players due to injury on Saturday. Several starters and key pieces were absent, including captain Michael Bradley, who is expected to miss an extended period of time after undergoing a hamstring procedure. The flurry of injuries couldn’t have come at a more challenging time for TFC, who are desperate for wins and are amid one of their busiest stretches of the season.

Given the circumstances, moments of visible frustration are starting to boil over. After Saturday’s loss, there was an emotional coming together between Toronto and Montréal. Players got into it. So did the coaches.

“I think it’s just frustration," Kaye said. "I think it just shows the passion of the players. When emotions are high, it’s very easy to see something like that. It’s a rivalry game. Both clubs aren’t big fans of each other."

Earlier in the week, the Canadian international was involved in a separate incident with Toronto’s own fans when he had to be restrained following the Reds' exit from the Canadian Championship. A video surfaced on social media showing one of TFC’s supporters throwing a megaphone on the pitch in his direction.

Reflecting on the incident, Kaye said it was another “heightened situation” and called for supporters to show a certain level of respect “in terms of their disappointment.”

“It was just a bad blip in the history of Toronto FC, and I hope that that never happens again. And from a player standpoint, I just want to say that we respect the fans wholeheartedly and we just expect the same respect back so that we can work together to bring this club back to where it belongs,” said Kaye.

Despite the growing concerns, there’s plenty of time for TFC to turn their season around, beginning Wednesday when they host the New York Red Bulls at BMO Field (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

“We've just got to dig deep and push through, and it's going to feel so much better once we get to the other side,” said Kaye.