Bernardeschi scores three goals as rampant Toronto FC thumps CF Montreal

Toronto FC forward Federico Bernardeschi (10) scores as CF Montreal forward Ariel Lassiter (11) and defender Joel Waterman (16) defend during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Katsarov/CP)

After a 5-1 thumping of an injury-ravaged CF Montreal on Saturday, Toronto FC’s Italian duo of Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne had the honour of leading the Viking Clap, banging the drum in front of the fervent fans in the south stands at BMO Field.

There was plenty to celebrate.

Bernardeschi had a hat trick, boosting his goal total to seven in his last four games after being blanked for 19 outings. Insigne, captaining the side in his first start since March 23, had a pair of assists.

And most importantly, a lopsided win over rival Montreal,

“For us, it was very important tonight — for the city for the fans, for the team,” Bernardeschi said in English.

And with the win, Toronto (7-6-1) matched its entire points total of last season — when it finished last in Major League Soccer at 4-20-10 — with 20 games remaining.

“They put a hell of a shift in,” said Toronto coach John Herdman.

The same cannot be said for Montreal, which trailed 3-0 after 19 minutes and didn’t score until it was down by five.

The stylish Bernardeschi, sporting new bleached cornrows, scored in the 12th, 58th and 60th minutes on a night Montreal fans will want to forget. Matty Longstaff and Prince Owusu also scored for Toronto (7-6-1) before a jubilant announced crowd of 28,261.

Down 5-0, Sunusi Ibrahim pulled one back for Montreal (3-7-3).

Montreal’s lengthy injury list included Matias Coccaro, Raheem Edwards, Ousman Jabang, Lassi Lappalainen, Josef Martinez, Mahala Opoku, Nathan Saliba and Mason Toye. 

Those who were healthy opened the game in a much slower gear than Toronto.

Coming off a mid-week 3-1 defeat at the hands of visiting Columbus, Montreal has now lost four straight in league play and won just one of its last 11 outings (1-7-3) in all competitions.

And Montreal has now conceded 31 goals in 13 games — and 15 in its last four league outings.

Montreal’s Joel Waterman did not mince words after the lopsided defeat, wondering what went wrong.

“I don’t know why the humility left. I don’t know why the desire left and the compete level left. … For some reason it’s gone away and we need to get back to it,” said the Canadian centre back. 

“But if it doesn’t come from inside the locker-room and with the players, it doesn’t come from anywhere,” he added.

Waterman defended first-year coach Laurent Courtois.

“It’s not his fault,” he said. “It’s not up to him to motivate us. It’s up to him to coach us and he’s been doing a hell of a job of doing that. … I still trust in his plan wholeheartedly. I know the guys do too.”

Toronto was firing on all cylinders with the Italians, whose combined pay numbers US$21.7 million this season, leading the way.

The pick of Bernardeschi’s goals came the 13th minute when he took a long pass from Deybi Flores with nary a defender in sight before roofing a left-footed rocket to make it 2-0.

Toronto launched 13 shots in the first half alone, with six on target (compared to six shots and three on target for Montreal). The final tally had Toronto having a 17-12 edge (9-5 in shots on target).

Toronto went into the weekend play seven points and seven places ahead of 13th-place Montreal in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto had lost two straight, including a mid-week 2-0 defeat in Nashville that saw TFC without Herdman and nine players due to injury and suspension. Toronto had won five straight in all competitions before that.

Saturday marked the first time Owusu, Bernardeschi and Insigne had started together since March 16 and Montreal had no answers for the trio.

The two teams had met 33 times previously in regular-season play with each recording 14 wins. There had been five ties.

But Montreal was unbeaten in the last seven meetings (6-0-1) with Toronto last winning in September 2020 (2-1 at Stade Saputo). TFC’s last victory on home soil was August 2019 (2-1).

Toronto was missing the injured Jonathan Osorio, Kevin Long, Shane O’Neill and Brandon Servania. In an ‘only-in-MLS’ situation, Richie Laryea managed to be both injured and suspended.

Montreal, which made five changes to its mid-week lineup against Columbus, had five Canadians in its starting lineup compared to none for Toronto.

Herdman had Osorio, a hometown boy, address the team pre-game about the significance of the Montreal derby.

“We made an absolute commitment that we would represent, every man that wasn’t from this city would show up with a passion and an energy to make sure that those Toronto lads could walk down the street with their heads up the next day” said Herdman, whose derby growing up in England was Newcastle-Sunderland.

Fans in the south stands unfurled a banner before the game saying: “At the end of the day, we have an MLS Cup and Montreal doesn’t.” An even larger banner was in the form of a social media-style zero-star review of CF Montreal.


Toronto takes a 3-0 lead over Ligue1 Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent into Tuesday’s return leg of their Canadian Championship quarterfinal at BMO Field before hosting FC Cincinnati next Saturday.

Montreal is also in cup action, hosting CPL champion Forge FC on Wednesday before welcoming Nashville SC on Saturday.

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