Toronto FC

FC Cincinnati (0) - Toronto FC (0) Postgame Summary

February 25, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Toronto FC News Release



TOR - Jonathan Osorio 2' (caution)

TOR - Raoul Petretta 34' (caution)

TOR - Shane O'Neill 54' (caution)

CIN - Yuya Kubo 63' (caution)

TOR - Sean Johnson 82' (caution)


FC Cincinnati 0-0-1 1 point

Toronto FC 0-0-1 1 point


FC CINCINNATI -Roman Celentano; Kipp Keller, Miles Robinson, Ian Murphy; Yuya Kubo (Bret Halsey 90+3'), Pavel Bucha (Malik Pinto 90+4'), Obinna Nwobodo, Luca Orellano (Alvas Powell 78'); Luciano Acosta (C), Sérgio Santos (Aaron Boupendza 58'), Corey Baird (Gerardo Valenzuela 80')

Substitutes Not Used: Evan Louro, Isaiah Foster, London Aghedo, Arquimides Ordóñez

TORONTO FC - Sean Johnson; Shane O'Neill (Sigurd Rosted 80'), Kevin Long, Raoul Petretta; Federico Bernardeschi, Deybi Flores, Alonso Coello (Kosi Thompson 71'), Richie Laryea (Kobe Franklin 70');

Jonathan Osorio (C), Lorenzo Insigne (Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty 62'), Prince Owusu (Ayo Akinola 62')

Substitutes Not Used: Luka Gavran, Aimé Mabika, Latif Blessing, Cassius Mailula


Toronto FC recorded its first-ever MLS point at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Defender Kevin Long and midfielder Deybi Flores made their debuts and first starts for Toronto FC.

Following the goalless draw, Toronto FC's Sean Johnson became the fourth player in MLS history to record 100 career clean sheets, joining Nick Rimando, Kevin Hartman and former Red Stefan Frei.

Sean Johnson's seven saves recorded against FC Cincinnati marks the most saves the American shot-stopper has made in a single match for TFC, beating his previous club-high of five saves against Atlanta United on March 4, 2023.

Richie Laryea made his 113th appearance for Toronto FC, 249 days after appearing in his 112th game for the Reds against FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium on June 21, 2023.

With the result, Toronto FC's MLS Season Opener record moves to 5W-9L-4T (19 points).


Q. Congratulations on a point in a very tough place to play. That seemed like a team that looked a lot different from the one last year. What were your thoughts about the performance?

I thought it was exactly what we needed for the first game of the season. We were able to get our first point in this league, which was nice. It was nice because they had to fight for it.

When you come up against Acosta and this team is a very organized team as we have seen last season. Really tough to get anything clear.

We had that in our mentality. I thought the opening exchanges, if we had managed to get something earlier, I thought that would have maybe made a bigger difference to the game, but I think all in all we were resolute.

We showed that fighting spirit. We stayed connected right until the end. So for me it was a good start to the season, but still work to be done. A lot.

Q. Lorenzo [Insigne] coming out in the 62nd minute, was that sort of always the plan to give him about an hour? You talked earlier this week about wanting to manage his minutes, so I'm just wondering how much of that was tied to wanting to manage his minutes? What did you make of him in the hour that he played?

Yeah, it was, for him it's still preseason. He hasn't played a preseason match since Nashville and picked up 60 minutes in that match. So today it was pushing 45, and we would see, assess after 45 and see where was he at a level where we could keep him going a bit longer.

But this about managing Lorenzo through the whole season so we get him for as many home games as we can. Those are the players that when we're on the road, can do some of the work that needs to be done to keep clean sheets and to get points on the road.

Sometimes for us the three points would be great, but at the same time we're in that mentality of when we go away, the point is one of the hardest things to achieve in MLS. So that was nice tonight.

I think with his performance and you see those little combinations with Richie, both players had one and a half training sessions together. I think that partnership will blossom through the season.

Obviously the flexibility of being able to play Richie on that right side and potentially Fede on the left and looking at the variation on that is going to be good for us.

I think Lorenzo, it was a good start. He had his moments, which he should. He is still in his preseason. We're just going to keep getting him stronger and getting him ready to really fire up for that home opener.

Q. A couple of debuts in the line-up. I'm not sure if Richie [Laryea] counts as one, but Kevin Long and Deybi Flores. What did you see from them tonight?

I think Deybi was manning the match for us. He really pushed a level of performance there. I said we have to recruit that type of player. I think the Front Office did a great job in bringing that profile, which is that competitive, destroyer type profile I thought TFC lacked last season in the middle of the park.

Him and Alo [Coello] have built a good relationship through preseason, but his intensity is special. I watched him for Honduras and have had to play against him and always worried about the player that was on his side that would be left standing after the game. He is so intense and passionate.

Yeah, he was solid. [Kevin] Longy did what we expected him to do. Again, we've done well with the profiling. We went after multiple targets. We were pretty clear on what we wanted.

That connection, again, with the front office, Jason Hernandez and his team, has been class. They've looked at the profiles, and I think that was the perfect profile for TFC. He brings the experience, the composure. He doesn't get rattled. You can see in that moment that last five, ten minutes of the match where you are chasing the points, he brought his experience.

I would really point to him, Raoul Petretta, and Deybi Flores. I thought were exceptional today.

Q. Just wanted to ask you about that postgame huddle. We were seeing that on the broadcast, and it seemed like that was an important moment for this group, mindful of especially we'll say the narratives that have lingered around this club for a bit and the project you're steering to hopefully put those in the past.

Yeah, it was an important moment. It was Sean Johnson's 100th clean sheet. I think that's a really special occasion for any player. It was a moment where we got our first point in that stadium against a very, very good team.

This team has been killing it in MLS last season, so we knew it was going to be tough coming here as the home opener, the energy of their fans. More importantly, Lorenzo spoke, and it's just the start. It's the right step forward. As you said, we're fighting together now.

Whether it's Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and the 19-year-old coming off the bench or Kobe Franklin, you know, young players. Of course, Kosi Thompson, to solidify the game. Those players can be trusted because there's a connection here. They know that these veteran players have got their backs, and we're going to get through this season together.

So, all in all, that huddle was just a symbol of the first step.

Q. John, last season when things went wrong with this team, you saw a lot of hands being raised, body language, things like that. There seemed none of that today. Was that a point of emphasis you had made, or is it just part of the new culture?

It's the standard that's set. I think it's been brilliant with that leadership group. That was one of the standards that won't be tolerated at this club, and I think it only ever gets tested under the heat of battle, and it was hot today. It was really hot today.

There were some hot moments going both ways on the pitch where people got frustrated with a touch or a pass or at the other end when Acosta is working his magic. I thought the guys were able to just stay on task. They're clear on what their roles are, and they've got a togetherness, a purpose for why they're here now. I think it doesn't give way of the frustration or pain of the performance as easy as it did.

So that's being worked on, and I have to commend the leaders because they've set their standards. Ultimately, they lead those behaviors on the pitch.

Q. Sean Johnson made seven saves today, including some really sort of key ones at important junctures of the match. I just wanted to get your sort of perspective on his performance tonight. You named him as part of the leadership group, and I guess it's for, in part, because of reasons because of his performances like today.

I thought he was a great signing for TFC. I think the fans thought that was the missing link. Unfortunately, little injuries and other things that occurred last season, it was tough for Sean.

Certainly we've got a strong central spine. Myself, Jason Hernandez looked at that through the offseason and said, look, with Sean in there, adding Deybi, adding an experienced centre-back that can still do it in the league. I think that's really been a big part of that spine.

We know he has that in him. I thought he made two big chest saves from tough angles, but two big saves that a lot of us from the front players to the people on the bench would just expect him to do it. So, again, when you come to a stadium like this with players like this, you know he is going to be busy at some point. He's all in. He's all in at the moment.

Q. Two quick ones if I may. First one, John, just on managing [Luciano] Acosta, really limiting his chances today. I thought it was a real team effort, but Shane O'Neill in particular sort of stood out on that front.

I could have put Shane on that man of the match performance [list]. I think he was right up there as well. If you look where he is at, he's a changed man from the guy I met in Toronto in October.

He's really shown that pedigree that people had seen at Seattle when he was pushing for championships. It's been a real pleasure working with Shane because he's had a tough few things going on behind the scenes. He just brings a focus and intensity to every training there, and all the DPs they love him because he's just honest, so honest with everything he does.

He had a big job today as you have seen tracking Acosta. When Deybi couldn't manage him, Shane would step in. I think we learn from Acosta. I think a big learning was we needed to turn with the man more. I thought that was that little bit of detail we lost today.

We did limit his chances, but still there were moments we could improve. So every game we play, we'll learn. It will be a different story when we head back.

Q. Did you feel like there was a goal out there for you guys today?

I think the chances were there. Fede was heading to the top corner, the little deflection. I think Prince [Owusu] made a great save on Lorenzo's shot. What were the chances on that?

Yeah, I just feel like the first 15 minutes of each half the last probably five, ten minutes of the second, first half as well, we had a chance, good chances there. We had good moments where we needed to capitalize.

For us we'll go back and review those elements and just close those gaps. That's what the beginning of the season is for, but I was happy with Fede's contribution. I thought he did well on the flank, and we found him when we found him. He was very dangerous.

I would like to see a little bit more from that left side with Lorenzo and Richie, but that partnership will develop over time.

Q. We haven't had a chance to talk to you since the announcement about Adama Diomande. I am wondering if you could speak to that because it seemed like earlier in the preseason you were talking about wanting to give him time to see if he can kind of come back. What led to the decision about waiving him?

Yeah, it's always a tough decision. Adama's fitness, injuries have been plaguing him for a period of time. So it's not easy when you've been injured for those periods, and you are then pushed to different standards.

In the preseason he's a class guy. We had great conversations, but I think largely we needed that international slot. That's a big one.

With Adama there was still a few more weeks before we felt we could even get him to sort of match readiness to come off the bench, and we just needed to step on. We need to do change gears. With some of the signings, Nicksoen Gomis, Kevin Long, and some of the others that we're potentially looking at, that international slot is coveted first.

A tough decision. I would love to have seen him flying at his best, but there was just no guarantee of seeing that in the first ten games of the season. If you know the first ten games, you've got to start strong in MLS to stay in the race. It was a tough big decision, but one that we had to make.


Q. Really credible point to earn on the road in a place where it's really hard to pick up points. Just wanted to get your overall thoughts on the team's performance tonight.

Yeah, I thought I had a really good performance. When you start away from home in a difficult place to play, the reigning champions, it's not easy playing here and get results here, and I thought the team fought really hard.

First 20 minutes I thought we were the better team. For the most parts of the first half. It was really, really positive.

They kind of found their way into the game. I thought we weathered that storm really well. We stuck together. In the second half I thought we started well. Yeah, you know, a team like that, a good team like that is going to find their way into the game. They're going to work off of the crowd and stuff. So they found their moments, but I thought we were really solid defensively.

Yeah, it was quite a professional performance from the whole group collectively. I think a very good point won on the road.

Q. Jonathan, a fine performance by Sean Johnson, a landmark 100th career shut-out for him. What's it like playing in front of a solid keeper like that?

It's huge. I think it's huge for any successful team to have a keeper that is going to keep you in games and really be a huge reason why you steal points, like a game like this.

I mean, Sean has proved himself in this league for a long time. He showed again today why he is one of the best keepers in the league. Yeah, to be a part of that milestone for him is great for everybody here. Yeah, he's one of the leaders of the team, and he really showed why today in the game.

Q. The TV commentary made mention of your captain's armband, that you had something on the inside of it. Is that true? Can you detail what that is?

Yeah. On the inside it's a little bit personal, but I'll tell you a little bit of it. On the inside I have the logos of each of our supporter's groups. I wanted it in there.

I had a meeting with them before the season started, and I just wanted to show them that I carry them with me onto the field and that I'm really one of them being a hometown kid and a kid that used to sit in their section way back when. So, yeah, I have each of their logos on the inside to play with me onto the pitch every game.

Q. Richie [Laryea] returns on Friday and on Sunday he nearly wins a penalty inside a minute or two. Picking up exactly where he left off, eh?

Yeah, it's no surprise. That's why we wanted him back. We value him a lot. It took a lot to get him back, and today he showed why we were willing to go through all of that.

Yeah, Richie is going to be one of the most important players of this team going forward. He is here for the near future now for a while, and he's going to establish himself as a leader on this team on and off the field.

So for a guy that hasn't really had a really preseason and to come in and to play the way he did is just testament to the level of player that he is.

Q. You've played against Deybi Flores. What's it like having him on your side as a teammate? Does he offer something that maybe the club was in need of compared to last year? Does he bring something new?

It's much better having him on your side, of course. You know, he's always on top of you. He doesn't let you breathe.

Yeah, of course, he gives us a different dynamic now that maybe we've missed. He's a dog in the middle of the field. He bites, and he covers ground and recovers so many balls for us.

So he gives us a little bit of calmness there in the middle, just that reliability in the middle to know that whenever the ball does come through the middle against our team, it's going to be difficult for the other team to play. He's a big part of that.

But the other big thing about him is that he's bringing that out of other players. I think you see a lot more bite from the whole team this year, and that's coming from him. That starts from him.

An amazing debut from him and looking forward to many more performances like that from him.

Q. There were a number of differences that caught my eye today. Federico [Bernardeschi] at wing-back was one of those, but I think the thing that struck me most was the willingness in the group to work for each other. How much of that was an emphasis heading into this new season?

Yeah, of course, I think we've been working at that starting from after the end of last season. We knew that going into the season, one of the main things was making it a united group, making it a group that was together and fighting together. So that took a lot of work from end of last year and then this preseason.

Yeah, I think everybody, now we're all fighting for all collective goals, goals that are now that we all want to reach together, and we have the same mindset. So I think that showed on the pitch.

Everybody was working for each other. Everybody knows the system and knows their jobs and what they have to do, and I think we want to show that we really care. That's important this year. We care. We care a lot, and we fight, and we want to fight for this club. We want to fight for these fans. This is a really good first step.

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