Toronto have a chance to play with Lorenzo Insigne in the house

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The Reds enter a great part of their schedule just as Lorenzo (Il Magnifico) Insigne joins the club.

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Toronto FC has played four straight MLS games at home since Saturday’s game at BMO Field against Atlanta United.

It should be exciting for manager Bob Bradley and the club’s fans, but of course it’s even more exciting to see Insigne donning a TFC uniform.

Insigne brings a lot and the Reds may need his help. TFC sits 12th in the MLS Eastern Conference (4W 8L 3D), five points away from a playoff spot, though the club picks up a decisive 4-0 victory over MLS rivals CF Montreal on Wednesday night in the Canadian Championship semi-final game. Insigne, who captained both Italy and Napoli, will give the Reds an extra veteran lead and will certainly bolster the club’s offense, which has been showing signs of life lately with most of its injured players back in the squad. Having Insigne, Alejandro Pozuelo, Jesús Jiménez, Ayo Akinola and Jonathan Osorio on the pitch would no doubt mean many goals and give TFC opponents nightmares. Insigne’s preferred position is on the left flank, but he can also play as a second striker and in left midfield, which gives Bradley several attacking options. In eleven seasons at Napoli, Insigne made 417 appearances, scoring 114 goals and 95 assists in all competitions.

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And while TFC fans welcome Insigne’s arrival, it should be remembered that one player, no matter how good, cannot lead a mediocre team to a championship. The whole team must rise. TFC goaltender Quentin Westberg, who was in goal against Montreal on Wednesday, said the Reds can’t expect Insigne to land in Toronto and suddenly lead the team to major success. The expectation that Insigne will immediately lead TFC to the promised land puts tremendous pressure on the 5’4″ Italian’s diminutive shoulders.

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“To be very down to earth about it, he is another teammate. It’s great that we’re getting a boost in his quality and I hope he and his family are doing great (in Toronto) so he settles in here as soon as possible. But football is not basketball,” Westberg said. “We are 11. I almost never saw one person lift them all. It’s all about creating a more positive atmosphere rather than expecting everything from one person. And then the understanding that when we go out on the field, there are 18-year-olds and 35-year-olds, and everything in between. It’s the understanding that no matter how great a reinforcement he is, we can’t rely on a superhero to come along (and do everything), and we can’t put too much hope on his shoulders. If we start waiting for him to move the mountain (by himself), then I think that this is bad for us. That would be a hell of a short cut. You need to create an enabling environment so that people can stand out. We can’t expect one player to run everything. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

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“One person, no matter how good they are, can be a very positive influence, don’t get me wrong,” Westberg added. “But you need to create an environment for success.”

What the inclusion of Yingxin won’t solve either is the leaky TFC protection. The Reds have conceded 29 goals in 15 MLS games, the most in the Eastern Conference, although against Montreal on Wednesday, the Reds posted their first clean sheet since last September. The TFC are reportedly looking to sign one or two other Serie A players, including possibly Genoa left-back Domenico Criscito, Torino striker Andrea Belotti and/or Juventus winger/attacking midfielder Federico Bernardeschi. The Italian media are full of reports that 35-year-old Criscito may be heading to Toronto. His Genoa club has been relegated to Serie B, so Criscito could move to another club.

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Insigne will arrive in Toronto on Friday and attend the Little Italy (Clinton and College) event around 5:00 pm. According to reports from Italy, the 31-year-old Naples native and his wife Jenny enjoyed a short vacation in the Mediterranean. the island of Sardinia after the end of the Serie A season. Insigne has two boys, Carmine, 9, and Christian, 7.

In January, TFC signed Insigne to a four-year, reportedly $15 million per season deal — the most lucrative MLS contract of all time — so there’s a huge amount of pressure on both him and the club. The MLS secondary transfer window opens on July 7th, so Insigne’s first game for TFC will take place on July 9th when San Jose Earthquakes visits BMO Field – if he’s healthy and ready to play. The Naples native recently suffered a “small calf problem”.

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Insigne was likely impressed by Toronto’s performance against Montreal on Wednesday night, with Brampton native Akinola scoring two goals while Jimenez and Pozuelo got singles. The Reds will play Vancouver in the Voyagers Cup Final, set to be dated in July, after Vancouver pulled off a second-half brace from striker Brian White to beat York United 2-1 in another semi-final on Wednesday. The winner of the final receives the Voyageurs Cup and a trip to the next year’s Concacaf Champions League competition.

Toronto captured the 2020 Canadian title (postponed by two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic) on June 4 against CPL Forge FC and now has a shot at winning two Voyageurs Cups in one season.

The TFC have won a record eight Canadian championships, with Montreal winning five and the Whitecaps one.

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