Analysis: Three takeaways from the Toronto FC Canadian Championship loss

Toronto FC lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps 5-3 on penalties yesterday in the Canadian Championship Final.

Brian White opened the scoring with a header for the Whitecaps in the 19th minute. Kyle MacNaughton scored his first goal for Toronto to equalize things in the 75th before the extra frame.

Bob Bradley and his trio of Italians were unable to best a disciplined and well-coached Whitecaps team. Vanni Sartini lined his team up in a 3-4-3 that allowed them to dominate the midfield. Despite Toronto having 71% of the possession, they struggled to attack the center of the pitch. Mark-Anthony Kaye’s absence due to injury was certainly a big factor as the Reds didn’t win the ball back much, either.

Toronto FC lose on penalties, Vancouver wins the Voyageurs Cup

It was Lorenzo Insigne’s lack of impact that was perhaps the biggest storyline. The 31-year-old was withdrawn with minutes on the clock before penalties. It was a surprising decision as he might as well have played the final four minutes and taken a penalty, but he was clearly tired out there.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Insigne needs time to heal

It has been clear since his debut that the superstar signing is not 100 percent healthy. After playing the first half in the 4-0 win against Charlotte, he told the press he was tired.

In this game, he created three chances and had as many attempts on target. But he wasn’t his usual dangerous self. As aforementioned, the Whitecaps did an exceptional job keeping Toronto’s attack to the perimeter. Insigne had two chances to execute his tiraggiro, but they were from too tight of an angle.

He still did well in build-up and progression play, but it’s evident he needs to rest. Toronto play six times in August, don’t be surprised if he spends a lot of time on the bench.

Bernadeschi assist: talent prevails

While Insigne hasn’t looked himself, Federico Bernadeschi has dazzled thus far for Toronto FC.

After netting a goal and an assist in his debut against Charlotte, he threatened on the right flank all game against the ‘Caps. He struggled with his final product throughout the game, but when his team needed him most, he pulled out a trivela assist:

You get what you pay for.

The Italian also put away his penalty in the shootout: just as he did in the EURO semi-final and final.

Say whatever you want about how he has performed through two matches in North America. That assist came from nothing but pure talent and technique.

Toronto FC midfield struggled without Mark-Anthony Kaye

With their latest designated player picking up an injury on the weekend, Toronto’s midfield was lacking in guile and intensity last night.

Vancouver’s goal was scored as a result of them winning multiple second balls from aerial duels. The Whitecaps’ new Paraguayan midfielder Andrés Cubas, in particular, was excellent. He was given enough space by Toronto to pull the strings offensively but also had seven recoveries.

The trio of Michael Bradley, Jayden Nelson and Jonathan Osorio are all excellent in their own regard. But none of them bring the destructive presence that Kaye does. They are all talented on the ball and did very well in possession. However, they lacked dynamism yesterday — the ability to create space and threaten the opponent’s defense from a standstill. Between the trio, they had just five chances created.

In contrast, Vancouver’s Ryan Gauld had five on his own.

It’s not clear if Kaye can fill that gap for Toronto yet. For Colorado, he had two assists from 3.6 xA in 29 starts, across two seasons. However, we are only four seasons removed from him posting four goals and eight assists as LAFC finished first. Bob Bradley was the coach, too.

If you want to reap the benefits of signing two talents like Insigne and Bernadeschi, you have to get the ball up to them. If Kaye can get back to his best, that shouldn’t be a problem.

RELATED: Analyzing the Mark-Anthony Kaye trade

 

Toronto FC will take on the New England Revolution next. The match will take place on Saturday, July 30 at 8 p.m. EST at the Gillette Stadium. The Revolution sit four places ahead of the Reds in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They lead Toronto by just four points (with a game in hand), meaning this matchup will have significant ramifications on the final standings.