John Herdman: 'It was a good start to the season' after 0-0 draw with FC Cincinnati

  • John Herdman took the pitch for the first time on Sunday for Toronto FC
  • The Canadian club were impressive in their opening game of the season
  • Former NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson kept his 100th clean sheet in the draw

Toronto FC looked a completely different team against Cincinnati
Toronto FC looked a completely different team against Cincinnati / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

First-year Toronto FC head coach John Herdman was delighted with his team's "fighting spirit" in their 0-0 draw with FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium.

The Herdman era is officially underway at TFC, and it's already shaping up to be much better after just one game when you look back at the dire 2023 season when the Canadian side won just four games and collected a mere 22 points to finish last in the Supporters' Shield race.

Ironically, Toronto squared off with the team that finished atop the Supporters' Shield race last term in Cincinnati with reigning league MVP Lucho Acosta in the side. Despite losing Brandon Vazquez to Liga MX giants Monterrey and Alvaro Barreal departing on loan to Cruzeiro, many predicted the Orange and Blue to maintain their 2023 levels in Pat Noonan's third season at the helm.

Herdman's side stacked up well against FCC, especially in the early goings. It was a refreshing look for TFC, with their Italian duo Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne showing glimpses of quality here and there.

"It was exactly what we needed for the first game of the season. We were able to get our first point in this stadium, which was nice," the former Canada men's national team boss said.

The 48-year-old explained that not only was the venue tough to play at, but the way that Noonan sets up his Cincinnati team also makes them difficult to beat at their home ground. After all, they won 13 of 17 home games at TQL Stadium in the 2023 regular season.

"[We] had to fight for it. When you come up against [Lucho] Acosta, a very organized team, it’s really tough to get anything here. We had that in our mentality," said Herdman.

"The opening exchanges, if we had managed to get something early I thought that would have made a bigger difference to the game, but, all in all, we were resolute, we showed that fighting spirit, we stayed connected right until the end. It was a good start to the season."

While the game was a draw on the surface level, one of MLS' most consistent shot-stoppers in Sean Johnson reached a new milestone in his storied career: keeping 100 clean sheets in league play.

“It was an important moment. Sean Johnson's 100th clean-sheet, 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. [Cincinnati] has been killing it in MLS last season. We knew it was going to be tough coming here: it’s a home opener, the energy of their fans," Herdman said.

The 34-year-old, who joined Toronto in January of last year, made five saves on the day and faced a Cincinnati xG of 0.88.

Toronto return to the pitch for their second-straight away game of the season against New England Revolution on March 2 at Gillette Stadium, looking to pick up their first victory in 2024.