Toronto FC boss Bob Bradley says his side need to find “that next step” as his side look to end the MLS campaign on a high note with one of their final road games, against Atlanta United in Georgia.
The Canadian outfit have underperformed to some this term, despite an influx of major European talent, with multiple faces from Italy’s Euro 2020-winning squad among their eye-catching inclusions.
Bradley has bemoaned their knack of causing their own downfall on games, and has outlined the ways they must work to turn their fortunes around in these final few weeks.
“We have moments of good football, moments where we’re close to being a good team, but that next step… we’re still hurting ourselves too many times,” he said.”When you’re going into that last stretch of the season…
“It’s not one thing, but it’s moments in a game where we don’t have the way to be ready for a situation – but that’s where we are as a team right now.
“We’re trying to make that next step and we are all frustrated that we haven’t been able, even with some better results, to really make that next step.”
Opposite number Gonzalo Pineda meanwhile has acknowledged his Atlanta side face a fight to reach the postseason race, with the Georgia outfit needing a boost in self-belief after some stinging results.
“The confidence level is not great for sure,” he mooted. “[But] this is football. This is part of the game. We wish we could be in a different position and try to increase those energy levels or confidence levels, but we are not. We have to try to move on and continue with the next game.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta – Ronaldo Cisneros
In the absence of Josef Martinez this weekend for disciplinary reasons, much will rest on the Mexican’s brunt up front if they are to win. His seven goals are second-best among the club’s ranks this term, after his missing team-mate.
Toronto – Federico Bernardeschi
Having swept every major domestic honour with Juventus and won Euro 2020 with Italy, it is still something of a surprise the winger has come to Canada. His form – seven goals in nine games – has nevertheless proven him more than capable of tearing up this league.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Atlanta United has never lost a regular season home match against Toronto FC (W2 D3). Toronto won the lone playoff meeting between the sides at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, however, a 2-1 win in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final against the then-defending MLS Cup Champions.
– Atlanta United has lost consecutive matches for the first time since late June after defeats at Philadelphia and Portland. The Five Stripes haven’t suffered a three-match losing streak in nearly two years, since October 2020, a run that featured a defeat to Toronto.
– Toronto FC scored twice in the opening seven minutes of its 4-3 defeat to CF Montréal on Sunday, the fastest two goals the Reds have ever scored from kickoff. It marked the 27th time in MLS history a team had scored twice in the first seven minutes, but just the fourth time that team went on to lose.
– Josef Martínez will not be available for Atlanta’s match against Toronto. In the 12 games in which he’s started, Atlanta averages 1.44 points per match (W5 D3 L2) this season compared to just 0.88 points per match in games in which he doesn’t start (W3 D6 L8).
– Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne both scored for Toronto on Sunday against Montreal, the fourth time both have scored in the same MLS match. Only Dániel Gazdag and a trio of Union teammates (C. Burke, J. Carranza, M. Uhre) have each scored in more games than Bernardeschi and Insigne.