Two of the highest wage bills in MLS come face to face, separated by just one spot in the standings
With Atlanta United’s 2022 campaign fading into oblivion on the pitch and falling over off it, the end of the season can only come sooner. But unfortunately for our mental well-being, there are still five games left to stumble through before the offseason. The first of the final quintet comes against fellow struggling big-spender Toronto FC and recent star arrivals Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
If for nothing else, Saturday’s showing will be worth tuning in to see the two Italian European Championship winners in action, and as someone who’s a Serie A fanatic, seeing Insigne and Bernardeschi in person is going to be pretty cool. Insigne notched 122 goals and 95 assists in across nine seasons at Napoli, eventually becoming club captain and winning two Coppa Italia trophies. Bernardeschi has had a bumpier route to Toronto. After starring at mid-table Fiorentina, he made the leap to Juventus only to never really find a home in Turin. He was eventually relegated to the job of a role player and never managed better than 4 goals and 5 assists a season. Both he and Insigne, however, have found new life in MLS. The duo has combined for 13 goals and 4 assists in 18 games and already look like some of the best players in the league. Domenico Criscito is also worth a mention. The 35-year-old defender spent three spells at relegation-fighting Genoa (a club with far more history than present-day quality) across a 16-year-spell. His fantastic left boot has already made a mark in North America and he’s offered some form of stability to Toronto’s porous backline.
But despite its trio of Italians, Toronto remains a work in progress. With both strikers (Jesus Jiminez and Ayo Akinola) misfiring, Insigne and Bernardeschi are left alone in the final third, while injuries to summer arrival Mark Anthony-Kaye and Michael Bradley’s legs catching up to him have left Toronto’s midfield in the hands of youngsters who aren’t quite ready. The defense is an even worse story, however. Toronto has the second worst defense in the East with 53 goals conceded and has let in two or more in five of its last seven outings.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: Atlanta United 3-3 Toronto FC
Goals galore are in the forecast for Saturday, with Insigne (x2) and Bernardeschi netting for the visitors while a Thiago Almada hattrick saves Atlanta a point.