Kickoff 8.29.23
What you need to know

Herdman named Toronto FC head coach

Toronto FC have their new head coach. John Herdman will formally take over on Oct. 1 after departing his current post as Canada men's national team head coach. Herdman will be charged with steering TFC beyond their tumultuous 2023 campaign, where they're currently last in the Eastern Conference table with eight games to go (19 points; 3W-13L-10D record). Those struggles led to the departure of former head coach Bob Bradley in late June, with Terry Dunfield leading the club on an interim basis.

Inter Miami begin construction on Miami Freedom Park

Inter Miami CF have begun construction on Miami Freedom Park, the club announced Monday, putting them on track to change home venues in 2025. The club’s new 25,000-seat soccer-specific stadium will be located near Miami International Airport, bringing the Herons south after they’ve played in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at DRV PNK Stadium since their 2020 inaugural season.

New England Revolution defender Bye out with knee injury

New England Revolution right back Brandon Bye has undergone successful surgery to repair a torn right ACL. The 27-year-old is expected to be sidelined for approximately nine months after sustaining the injury in New England's Leagues Cup match against Liga MX side Atlas FC on August 3.

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Good luck, John Herdman

Former Canadian men’s and women’s national team head coach John Herdman is the new head coach of Toronto FC. Typically, he’d be taking over one of the best jobs in the league. Great city, great fanbase, great large amounts of cash to throw around – all the things you’d be looking for if you were a coach. At the current moment, it feels risky.

To review right quick, Toronto are currently sitting at the very bottom of the Supporters’ Shield standings. They have three more wins than you and I do this year. They also have two of the five highest-paid players in MLS. Generally, that kind of thing translates to more than three wins, but, uh, both seem to be having a terrible time. Federico Bernardeschi has openly expressed frustration while putting together serviceable-at-best numbers. Lorenzo Insigne has clearly been frustrated while putting up pretty much the exact same numbers. Getting eight goals and eight assists combined from your two hyper-expensive wingers while they end up in the news every month or so for an outward expression of frustration is less than ideal.

As is having to send out a couple of key ancillary pieces you brought in to facilitate the success of those two dudes in particular. They added Mark-Anthony Kaye to their midfield in mid-2022. It seemed like a good move at the time. But it didn’t quite click. Toronto traded him to New England this summer for Latif Blessing. They added center back Matt Hedges to their backline in the offseason. It seemed like a good move at the time. They clearly needed to fix one of the worst defenses in the league. It didn’t even last a full season. He’s in Austin now.

We’re skimming over a few things. But the general idea is on paper this should have worked. The equation Amass Talent + Let Bob Bradley Figure It Out = Profit has worked before. But instead of points and trophies, the folks in Toronto are stuck with a “Focus Of An In-Depth Investigative Piece By The Athletic - 2023” banner to raise. Maybe there’s some solace in that? Trophies are eternal, but anecdotes about a player refusing to stop vaping are good for at least three years of jokes. That’s an elite ROI.

The good news is sending out guys like Kaye, Hedges and Ayo Akinola should free up a little cap space. It’s never a good idea to assume too much about how much room a team actually has to maneuver, but Toronto will likely be looking to clear even more room over the offseason. Expect something close to a full rebuild. Although, keep in mind, moving unwanted contracts is never a given.

So, how much time are they willing to give Herdman? Relying on any manager to turn around a roster that’s not up to par will never be an effective strategy. Is he coming into this project with the leeway to slowly but surely turn around a culture that’s deteriorated? Or are there expectations he’s the guy to turn Insigne and Bernardeschi into the stars that were promised? If it’s the latter, it’s hard to have high hopes for his tenure. And that’s not his fault.

If he gets time to work, install some shiplap and do the whole fixer-upper thing, there’s a chance Toronto could have a stable cornerstone in place for years to come. In theory, they have more than enough resources to put together a top-tier roster. If they’re successful in identifying talent and fit over the course of the coming roster rework, they don’t need Herdman to revolutionize the sport. They just need him to keep the ship afloat.

At this point though, it’s fair to have questions about Toronto’s ability to do that. Both in a sense we don’t have a real idea of how much success new GM Jason Hernandez will have and in a sense we don’t have a real idea of how much room they have to navigate the constraints inherent in building an MLS roster.

It’s going to be another interesting year or two or three for one of the league’s biggest clubs. I’m guessing they’d rather it be a little more boring as soon as possible. Maybe Herdman is the first major step towards that.

Other things

Inter Miami vs. Charlotte FC rescheduled for late October: Inter Miami CF and Charlotte FC will end the 2023 MLS season with back-to-back showdowns after their original Aug. 20 contest at DRV PNK Stadium was rescheduled for Oct. 18 (8 pm ET | MLS Season Pass) due to Leagues Cup participation. The Eastern Conference foes will also meet on Decision Day (Oct. 21) at Bank of America Stadium.

Atlanta United's Almada named Player of the Matchday: Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada was voted MLS Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire for a third time this season. Almada also garnered this recognition after Matchday 1 and Matchday 4. He has 22 goal contributions (9g/13a) on the campaign – tops in MLS alongside FC Cincinnati playmaker Luciano Acosta.

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