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The Reds are in for a wonderful part of their schedule as Lorenzo (Il Magnifico) Insigne joins the club.
Toronto FC will play four MLS games in a row at home, starting with Saturday’s game at BMO Field against Atlanta United.
That must be exciting for coach Bob Bradley and the club’s fan base, but what is of course even more exciting is that Insignia dons the TFC uniform.
Insignia brings a lot to the table and the Reds could use his help. TFC is 12th in the MLS Eastern Conference (4W 8L 3D), five points away from a playoff spot – although the club took an emphatic 4-0 victory over MLS rival CF Montreal in the Canadian Championship semifinals on Wednesday night. Insigne, who has captained Italy and Napoli, will bring some extra veteran leadership to the Reds and will certainly bolster the club’s attack, which has recently shown signs of life with most of its injured players returning to the line-up . Having Insignia, Alejandro Pozuelo, Jesus Jimenez, Ayo Akinola and Jonathan Osorio all on the pitch would no doubt mean many goals and create nightmares for TFC’s opponents. Insigne’s preferred position is on the left, but he can also play as a second striker and in left midfield, giving Bradley a number of offensive options. In 11 seasons with Napoli, Insigne made 417 appearances, scoring 114 goals and providing 95 assists in all competitions.
And while the arrival of Insignia is being announced by TFC fans, it should not be forgotten that one player, no matter how good he is, cannot take a mediocre team to a championship. The whole team has to leave. TFC keeper Quentin Westberg, who was in goal for the Montreal shutout on Wednesday, said the Reds cannot expect Insigne to land in Toronto and suddenly take the team to great success immediately. Expecting Insignia to lead TFC straight to the promised land puts an awful lot of pressure on the 1-foot-4 Italian’s small shoulders.
“To be very sober about it, he is a different teammate. It’s great that we’re getting a boost in his quality and I hope he and his family feel great (in Toronto) so that he settles here as soon as possible. But football isn’t basketball,” Westberg said. “We’re 11. I’ve never seen anyone lift everyone up. It’s all about creating a more positive environment rather than expecting everything from one person. And then understand that once we’re on the field, there’s 18-year-olds and there’s 35-year-olds and everything in between. It’s understand that as great as he is as a reinforcement, we can’t rely on a superhero coming in (and doing everything) and we shouldn’t put too many expectations on his shoulders. If we’re going to wait for him to move a mountain (on his own), I think it’s bad for us. That would be a damn shortcut. You need to create a favorable environment for individuals to stand out. We can’t expect one player to activate everything. It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint.
“One person alone, no matter how good he is, can have a very positive impact, don’t get me wrong,” Westberg added. “But you have to create an environment for success.”
Also, what the Insigne inclusion won’t address is TFC’s leaky defenses. The Reds have conceded 29 goals in 15 MLS games – the most in the Eastern Conference, although the Reds have their first clean sheet since last September against CF Montreal on Wednesday. TFC is reportedly looking for one or two more Serie A players, which may include Genoa left-back Domenico Criscito, Turin striker Andrea Belotti and/or Juventus winger/attacking midfielder Federico Bernardeschi. The Italian media is full of reports that Criscito, 35, may be on his way to Toronto. His club, Genoa, has been relegated to Serie B, so Criscito is open to a move.
Insignia arrives in Toronto on Friday and will attend an event in Little Italy (Clinton and College) around 5pm. According to reports from Italy, the 31-year-old Naples resident and his wife Jenny reportedly enjoyed a short vacation on the Mediterranean. island of Sardinia after the end of the Serie A season. The Badges have two boys, Carmine, 9 and Christian, 7.
TFC signed Insigne to a deal in January – the most lucrative MLS contract of all time – for four years at a reported $15 million per season – so there is enormous pressure on both him and the club. The MLS secondary transfer window opens on July 7, so Insigne’s first game for TFC would be on July 9, when the San Jose visit Earthquakes BMO Field – if he is healthy and ready to play. The Naples resident recently had a “minor calf problem.”
Insigne was likely impressed for Toronto against Montreal on Wednesday-evening, after two goals by Brampton-born Akinola, with singles for Jimenez and Pozuelo. The Reds will face Vancouver in the Voyageurs Cup final on a date to be determined in July, after Vancouver was braced in the second half from striker Brian White to beat CPL side York United 2-1 in the second half. another semifinal on Wednesday. The winner of the final will receive the Voyageurs Cup and a trip to the Concacaf Champions League competition next year.
Toronto captured the 2020 Canadian Championship title (which was postponed for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic) on June 4 against CPL side Forge FC and now has a chance to win two Voyageurs Cups in one season.
TFC has won a record eight Canadian Championships while Montreal has won five and the Whitecaps one.