Toronto FC will be hoping for success as they enter a grueling part of their schedule

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Toronto FC players weren’t just having fun lying in the sun during the recent international break.

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Coach Bob Bradley said practice over the past few days has gone well and players injured in recent games are almost all ready to play. And that’s good because the Reds are going to need everyone on deck as they enter a very busy period of the 2022 MLS schedule with five games over the next 15 days, starting with a game on Saturday night. at the New York Red Bulls.

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“You hope the work (that we’ve done) all season has got everybody ready because you’re going to have to bring in different players at different times,” Bradley said of the next streak. “Training has been good lately, so I see some positive things that we hope to see when games resume.

The final game of the five-game streak will take place on July 2, when the Seattle Sounders visit BMO Field, which could be the game where Italian national team star Lorenzo Insigne makes his TFC debut.

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Insigne, who is recovering from a minor calf injury, is due to arrive in Toronto at the end of next week and his presence should give TFC a boost.

There is also talk of the Reds trying to land Italian left-back Domenico Criscito.

But before the Italian stars arrive, TFC need to win a few games. With 15 points from 14 matches (four points off a playoff position) so far this season, TFC need to start pushing to get into the post-season range.

The 2022 campaign has been a struggle, with new players trying to freeze out and injuries ravaging the club. But players such as Jonathan Osorio, Chris Mavinga, Shane O’Neill and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty are back in full training and preparing to return to the line-up, although centre-back O’Neill is the only thing safe for Saturday’s game. against the Red Bulls.

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“We have a lot of games coming up so we have to be very smart about how we move guys around in terms of returning to play,” Bradley said.

Getting a result on Saturday will not be easy. TFC are winless in 15 straight MLS matches (D5 L10) since a 2-1 win at Chicago last July, the longest road winless streak in team history. The Reds have managed just three points in their seven away matches in 2022, including a 2-2 draw at DC in their last game on the road.

But Bradley believes his team is getting to the point where a road win is imminent. Heading into the international break, the Reds have come a long way with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire on May 28 and a 2-2 draw at DC United on May 21.

TFC then beat a determined Forge FC team on penalties on June 4 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton to win the 2020 Canadian Championship (a competition that was delayed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic) – giving the TFC its first trophy since 2018 and a record eighth Canadian championship.

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The Reds have a chance of winning a second Voyageurs Cup this year. They will face CF Montreal in the semi-finals of the 2022 Canadian Championship on June 22 at BMO Field and the final will be played in July.

Overall, Bradley thinks things are looking up.

“The resilience of the group has been important (although) I know football can still improve – our ability to create more chances, our ability to react better when we lose the ball and to defend more as a unity,” Bradley said. . “The standards I have for our football, we’re still working on it. But it’s no surprise. I knew – especially in the first half of the year when we knew we were going to give a lot of opportunities to young guys and when we brought in (new) players who had never played in MLS before – I think we all knew as staff that the work to become a good team was going to take a bit of time But, within moments, we saw progress.

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“We’re not there yet, but it’s day-to-day work,” added the coach. “But overall satisfied. Although none of us feel like we are where we can be. This is the focus every day.

“Now, as we get into this next stretch, we want to see it all come together a bit more,” Bradley continued. “We still think there are a lot of areas where our football can be better, where the ball moves faster, where our ability to get into the opposing box and be more dangerous, to attack a bit faster sometimes.

“And then defensively, the teamwork, the ability to understand if it’s an opportunity to get the ball back quickly, is everyone ready? And are we engaged?

After training on Thursday, Bradley and his players explained how the difficult victory over a highly organized Forge team on June 4 gave the team a boost, a particularly welcome development given what the club has been through. This year.

“It was definitely a milestone for this team,” first-year midfielder Kosi Thompson said. “Everyone is pretty new, still getting to know each other, but this (win) really brought us closer, definitely boosted our confidence. Even more than that, that win in Chicago (May 28).”

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