PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Italian stars Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne both scored Friday as Toronto FC opened its pre-season schedule against Nashville SC.
The matchup, at Palm Beach Gardens, was broken down into two-60 minute contests, with 30-minutes halves, so as not to push the players' fitness at this stage of training camp.
Both sides made wholesale changes between games, with most of TFC's senior players involved in the first match which Toronto won 2-0 thanks to the Italians. Ghana's Forster Ajago, a former Duke University forward who signed with Nashville in December, scored as Nashville won the second game 1-0.
TFC treated the outing as two separate matches. Nashville called it a 2-1 pre-season loss.
"From a fitness perspective, I thought the players were able to do 60 minutes well in this heat. And it was a real good test for them," said Toronto coach John Herdman. "Nashville are a physical team who are fit and coming into their third pre-season match.
"The first half we had a strong lineup with Fede and Lorenzo, Oso (Jonathan Osorio) and the guys were able to keep a clean sheet and score two goals ... Some of the quality was there. For a pre-season game there was good chemistry, a lot of good movement, a lot of good opportunities as well."
Herdman said he was "really happy" with what he saw from the second game lineup.
"We conceded one goal but we had at least three (or) four good chances to equalize or even win the game. So all in all as a pre-season exercise, a good start. Back to winning ways -- in one of the periods."
Canadian internationals Lukas MacNaughton and Jacob Shaffelburg, both former TFC players, started for Nashville in the first match. Hany Mukhtar, the 2022 MLS MVP, was in a Nashville starting 11 that contained two trialists in the second game.
Nashville previously beat St. Louis City FC and Sporting Kansas City by 2-1 scores in pre-season play.
Toronto, in its first training camp under Herdman, was slated to return home after Friday's match.
"I think the guys will be going home after this first phase ready to be with their families but with a smile on their face," said Herdman.
Toronto flies to California on Feb. 8 for the second half of training camp with games in Santa Barbara scheduled against the MLS champion Columbus Crew (Feb. 10), Real Salt Lake (Feb. 14) and Los Angeles FC (Feb. 17).
Nashville was also scheduled to return home after Friday's contest to continue preparations for its Feb. 22 CONCACAF Champions Cup match against Moca FC in the Dominican Republic.
Toronto opens the regular season Feb. 25 at FC Cincinnati with its home opener two games later, March 9 against Charlotte FC.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2024
The Canadian Press