TORONTO - Star winger Lorenzo Insigne could see a few minutes of action Saturday for the first time since exiting Toronto FC's season opener Feb. 25 with a groin injury.

The 31-year-old Italian, the highest-paid player in MLS, has missed the last six games.

“He'll be in the squad,” Toronto coach Bob Bradley said after training Friday. “He wouldn't be available for many minutes after only two days of training but it's great to have him back and part of the mix.”

Insigne will be hard to miss if he does get on the BMO Field pitch against Atlanta United. He is sporting a new hairstyle with the top of his head daubed red.

On Friday, he was wearing bright green boots in training, adding to the colourful look.

Toronto midfielder Brandon Servania said he has no plans to follow Insigne's lead when it comes to a fresh lid.

“For me, no. I'm going to leave that one to him. I think he rocks it, but I don't know if I can do it,” Servania said diplomatically.

Toronto (1-1-5) has not lost since the season opener, when it conceded 90th- and 98th-minute goals in a hard-to-forget 3-2 loss to D.C. United. But it has only one win in the six games since (1-0-5) and needs to start converting draws into victories.

Toronto is coming off a 0-0 tie in Nashville, having already posted draws against Atlanta, Columbus, San Jose and Charlotte.

“Obviously we've been talking about that as group, how the margins have been small lately,” said Servania. “I think we've been doing good. Obviously we need to have a little more quality in the final third (of the field) to get some goals and finish off some chances that we have and that will turn the draws into three points.”

The 2-0 win over visiting Inter Miami on March 18 is TFC's only victory in its last 13 games (1-6-6) dating back to last August.

The current unbeaten run started with a 1-1 draw in Atlanta on March 4.

Atlanta (4-1-2) has rebounded from a subpar 10-14-10 campaign last year that saw it finish 11th in the Eastern Conference, six points and two places ahead of Toronto.

Argentina World Cup winner Thiago Almada leads the team with four goals and five assists in six games with Greek international forward Giorgos Giakoumakis, who made his MLS debut against TFC in March, adding three goals in five games.

Saturday's game will see the return of former TFC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg to BMO Field. The 36-year-old, who spent the last four seasons in Toronto, is expected to step in for captain Brad Guzan, who's facing an absence of 10 to 12 weeks after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during last Saturday's 1-1 draw at New York City FC.

“(Westberg) has a lot of experience,” Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda said Thursday. “He's a solid replacement for Brad. You can see the leadership that Brad brings, but (Westberg) has some composure in his game that I think is going to help the team solve some problems. We're confident in him.”

Toronto will be without veteran centre back Matt Hedges, who is out due to concussion protocols after taking a ball to the face early in last week's 0-0 draw at Nashville. Hedges, a former MLS Defender of the Year, finished out the first half but was substituted at the break.

Also listed as unavailable are Toronto forward Adama Diomande (hamstring), midfielder Victor Vazquez (lower body) and fullback Cristian Gutierrez (non-COVID illness).

Diomande, who has not played since exiting at halftime of the March 4 game in Atlanta, took part in Friday's warmup session with the team but then left to train on his own.

“Not yet ready to be part of the squad … Hopefully next week,” said Bradley.

Insigne, whose salary was listed at US$14 million last year, has played just 12 league games, with six goals and two assists, since arriving in North America from Italy mid-season last year. When healthy, he has been an offensive sparkplug but injuries and a family health issue last season have disrupted his play.

TFC said the Italian had suffered a “setback” March 10 in training with a follow-up scan showing “aggravation of the groin.”

At the time, the prognosis was he would not be available for the next three to four games. Nashville represented the fourth game since then.

Atlanta will be without Argentine youth international Franco Ibarra, who is suspended after being sent off against NYCFC. Santiago Sosa or Matheus Rossetto are candidates to fill in for Ibarra.

Atlanta fullback Andrew Gutman (adductor) is questionable.

Veteran midfielder Osvaldo Alonso returned to training on Thursday for the first time since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in April 2022. It's expected that the 37-year-old Cuban-born American will need time to work his way back into the lineup.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2023