Eighteen months after what club president Bill Manning called a “remarkable transformation,” Toronto FC looks as broken as ever. Something, or more likely, someone, has to give.
For Toronto striker Federico Bernardeschi, the Italian star, that someone is his coach, Bob Bradley.
“We don’t have construction in the game,” he said, per The Canadian Press (h/t Yahoo Sports ), in pointed criticism of his coach. “When the player has the ball, we don’t know how to pass the ball.
“This is not good for young players,” he continued. “They need to get better and grow with their understanding of football.”
That was Bernardeschi’s mindset after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Austin FC. He shared the damning charge when Toronto was last in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference.
“Respectfully, this team, this city, these fans, everybody doesn’t deserve this and I think maybe we need to change something,” he added.
To hear Bernardeschi tell it, the Toronto coach is a novice, a fake, someone who doesn’t really understand football. But Bradley is none of those things. He is a former leader of the US Men’s National Team and one of the top soccer coaches in North America.
Why are Bradley, one of the best coaches in MLS, and Bernardeschi, one of the league’s most powerful designated players, so deeply at odds?
The answer lies, in particular, in the fitness of Bernardeschi’s teammate, compatriot and best friend, Lorenzo Insigne.
Insigne is the second-highest paid player in MLS, but his stats have been woeful since his move to North America. Some of that has to do with injury (he’s often out with minor issues), but a lot of it has to do with his work on the field.
Insigne isn’t particularly aggressive or physical, and he’s never been able to break through MLS’ notoriously tough defenses. Instead of stepping up and learning to compete in the league, Insigne shoots and passes the ball back to Bernardeschi.