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Toronto FC are a new must-watch team in MLS with their Italian stars leading the way

After a mesmerizing performance against Charlotte FC on Saturday, Toronto FC are relevant again in the Eastern Conference.

2 min read
© John E. Sokolowski – USA TODAY Sports

This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a more entertaining half of soccer in MLS this year than Toronto FC’s first half against Charlotte FC on Saturday. BMO Field was rocking. Bob Bradley started both of his new star Italian wingers, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. Mark-Anthony Kaye even made his home debut for Toronto in central midfield in a 4-0 win.

With Insigne and Bernardeschi on the field for the first half, Bradley’s team scored four goals and played some of the best soccer that any team has played all season.

Jonathan Osorio opened the scoring for the home team with a hilarious, unplanned deflection. Everything before that deflected finish, though, was both thoughtful and precise. The buildup to Osorio’s goal involved a 12-pass sequence that ranged from one side of the field to the other, stretched from Toronto’s half to Charlotte’s, and involved seven different Toronto FC outfield players.

One-touch passes, flicks, combination play, off-ball movement. This play had pretty much everything.

It wasn’t a perfect half from Toronto – and it’s worth noting that Charlotte isn’t a very good team – but they did so many of the things that effective possession and counter pressing teams do, thanks in large part to their shiny new toys. As it turns out, it’s much easier to play well when you have a collection of really good players on the field. And after a whole bunch of roster surgery and after flushing several million dollars directly down the drain, it looks like Toronto have that now.

Over and over again on Saturday, Insigne played these one-touch progressive passes with his right foot to a teammate making a run forward in the left halfspace. His first touch in a Toronto FC jersey was one of those passes to Kaye, who showed an almost constant willingness to run up that channel to provide Insigne with a forward passing option. The former Napoli star also found moments to set up his teammates in the attacking half, like we saw on Toronto’s fourth goal of the night.

Bernardeschi looked sharp, too. He fired off some textbook switches from his right wing over to the left side and scored a nice goal from outside the box.

“They’re both finding good spots, getting the ball,” Bob Bradley said of his two wingers at halftime. “The rhythm of the game is good. And they can both do special things.”

They really, really can. Toronto FC still have defensive issues, though some of the issues they’ve dealt with all season long were mitigated by having a pair of dynamic attackers who kept the ball and pinned the opposition back. They’re still going to give up transition attacks through central midfield. And they’re still going to lose games. But they were mesmerizing in the first half against Charlotte over the weekend.

Toronto FC are must-see TV, folks.