Italian stars show off skills in MLS debuts as Toronto FC hammers Charlotte FC

Federico Bernardeschi scored one goal and set up another and Lorenzo Insigne collected an assist on their MLS debut as Toronto FC celebrated its new Italian star power with a 4-0 romp over expansion Charlotte FC on Saturday.

Quioto's brace lifts CF Montreal past D.C. United, Whitecaps fall to Chicago Fire

Toronto FC's Lorenzo Insigne, middle, celebrates a goal by captain Michael Bradley, left, during a 4-0 victory against the visiting Charlotte FC on Saturday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Toronto FC fans showed Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne a lot of love in their MLS debut Saturday. And the Italian newcomers repaid them in spades.

Bernardeschi scored one goal and set up another and Insigne collected a stylish assist as Toronto celebrated its new Italian star power with a 4-0 romp over expansion Charlotte FC.

"It felt pretty special, to be honest," said Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono.

"A really really big night," added captain Michael Bradley. "You could feel it driving in. You got the sense over the last few days it was going to shape up to be a special night. And it was in every way."

Bradley, who had 14 goals in his previous 258 MLS games, scored twice with Jonathan Osorio adding a single. Mark-Anthony Kaye had two assists as TFC led 4-0 at halftime.

Insigne and Bernardeschi came off at the break, with an eye to their fitness and Tuesday's Canadian Championship final in Vancouver. Job done and money well spent as TFC scored four goals in the first half of an MLS game for the first time in franchise history.

WATCH l Captain Bradley scores brace as Italian stars debut in Toronto's 4-0 win:

Bradley tallies twice as TFC blanks Charlotte

1 year ago
Duration 2:14
Featured VideoToronto FC captain Michael Bradley had a pair of goals before half in their 4-0 victory over Charlotte FC on Saturday.

There was a party-like atmosphere at BMO Field thanks to anticipation over the two Italians' debut. Attendance was announced as a sellout of 29,067, well above the average of 23,676 over the previous 11 home matches this season.

"I was very pleased. I didn't expect such a welcome from the fans in this first home game. I hope to return the love to the fans with my game on the field and also in the future," Insigne said through an interpreter.

"So wonderful. The fans are fantastic. Wow," Bernardeschi added in English. "Today for me and for the team is a special day."

It was as if someone had turned the 'On' switch on the Toronto season. But at 6-12-4, the road back to respectability is a long one. Toronto entered weekend play winless in the last five games and in 13th spot in the 14-team Eastern Conference, five places and seven points below Charlotte (8-12-2).

'We're not Barcelona yet'

"A really good start," said Toronto coach Bob Bradley.

"I think I said one game we're not Barcelona yet, that's for sure. We're still not," he added.

Toronto had not posted a shutout in league play since a scoreless draw in Colorado on Sept. 25, 2021, conceding goals in 29 straight matches.

The home side came out with renewed energy with the backing of a loud crowd. Toronto led 2-0 after 10 minutes on goals by Osorio and Bradley.

Bernardeschi made it 3-0 in the 31st minute with an elegant left-footed strike from outside the penalty box.

According to Opta, the 28-year-old is the first player to record a goal and an assist before halftime of his first MLS appearance since Fredy Montero for Seattle in 2009. He also joined Alejandro Pozuelo, who was traded to make room for the Italian, as the only TFC player to score a goal and register an an assist in his MLS debut.

Insigne played provider in first-half stoppage time, deftly flicking the ball to an onrushing Bradley after Osorio dispossessed a Charlotte player. Bradley steamed past a defender and chipped the 'keeper for a 4-0 lead.

The second half was less notable and far more even without the two Italian wingers.

But things went from bad to worse for the visitors in the 65th minute when captain Christian Fuchs was shown a straight red card for cynically dragging Jayden Nelson down as the teenager outpaced him with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Charlotte was irate that Toronto defender Doneil Henry, who came on at the start of the second half to kick off his second stint with Toronto, had not been sanctioned immediately before for a hard tackle on Kamil Jozwiak in the Toronto penalty box.

Toronto also finished with 10 men with Kaye having to leave the field injured and Bob Bradley out of substitutions.

Toronto scored in the fourth minute, with Osorio — back in the lineup after clearing concussion protocols — in the right place at the right time as Guzman Carujo's attempt at a penalty box clearance ricocheted off the Canadian midfielder into the back of the net.

It was Osorio's sixth of the season and his 55th for TFC in all competitions. It also ended a 199-minute Toronto scoring drought. TFC had failed to score in seven of its previous 12 matches.

Bernardeschi provided in the 10th minute, with Bradley flicking in his corner with a fine header from the near post for his second goal of the season. Both were headers, unlike his previous 13 career MLS scores.

TFC outshot Charlotte 15-11 on the night. The game marked the first meeting between Toronto and Charlotte.

Quioto's brace lifts CF Montreal past D.C. United

Romell Quioto scored a crucial goal in Montreal's 2-1 victory against D.C. United on Saturday.

Quioto's goal came in the 35th minute to put Montreal (11-8-2) up 2-0. Joel Waterman assisted the goal. Quioto scored all of Montreal's goals in the game.

James Pantemis had four saves for Montreal.

Steve Birnbaum scored for United (5-12-3).

D.C. United outshot Montreal 13-10, with five shots on goal to Montreal's three.

Rafael Romo saved one of the three shots he faced for United.

Montreal plays at home on Saturday against New York City FC, while United will host Orlando City on Sunday.

Whitecaps fall to Chicago Fire

Xherdan Shaqiri had a goal and an assist Saturday, lifting the surging Chicago Fire to a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at B.C. Place Stadium.

Chris Mueller and Rafael Czichos also scored for Chicago (7-10-5), which extended its Major League Soccer win streak to three games.

Lucas Cavallini had the lone goal for a Whitecaps (7-10-5) side that remains three points below the playoff bar in MLS's Western Conference.

Twenty-year-old Canadian goalkeeper Isaac Boehmer made his second straight start for Vancouver and registered one save. Chicago's Gabriel Slonina stopped two of three on-target shots.

The Fire took control of the game early and dominated 60.9 per cent of the possession. The visitors also outshot the 'Caps 16-8, and 4-3 in on-target shots.

Chicago sealed the deal at 3-1 in the 90th minute when Mueller placed a right-footed shot in the top-right corner of the Vancouver net. Shaqiri registered an assist on the play.

With files from The Associated Press

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