Fans have a lot to be excited about after Toronto FC II played their first game in the 2017 USL season. Playing in front of a loud and menacing crowd that wanted to see their Phoenix squad experience a smashing debut-Toronto’s young players kept their cool, adapted to the new 3-5-2 system well, and gelled quickly despite the lack of time they experienced training together. What was most impressive was the way Toronto was able to sustain their defensive strength; an area that had been completely overhauled during the off-season. There is reason for optimism that 2017 will see a better performance of the Reds.
One of Jason Bent’s greatest challenges is to adapt to a continual change in squad members. This game was certainly no exception to that-the day before TFC II played their season opener, Toronto FC announced that Marky Delgado, Jay Chapman, Tsubasa Endoh, Raheem Edwards, Oyvind Alseth and Brandon Aubrey were all to be sent to Toronto FC II for the game. Some of these players will certainly make regular appearances for TFC II, but it is likely that the first three on the list will spend more time traveling with the first team as regular substitutions. This meant that Bent had to sit half of his USL squad to make room for the first team players.
Forward: Ben Spencer, Ryan
Midfield: Raheem Edwards, Jay Chapman, Markey Delgado, Tsubasa Endoh, Brian James
Defense: Lars Eckenrode, Brandon Aubrey, Oyvind Alseth
Keeper: Mark Pais
When it comes to the standout players of the match, it is difficult to precisely pin down who should be given the most praise. This is simply because Toronto did an excellent job of working together to create space and move the ball. Tsubasa Endoh seems to be gaining more comfort in playing that wide right position that Vanney has been pushing him toward-he was finding pockets to play in all game and likely would have seen more action if he would have received more service from James and Chapman. Edwards found it a little harder to find space to play in, but when he did he made good use of it, creating a number of excellent scoring opportunities as well as having a great attempt on goal in the 75th minute after beating two defenders.
Likely the most exciting play came from the newest member of the squad-Ryan Telfer. Signed the day before to a USL contract, Telfer had been training with the squad since the beginning of training camp. It was his touch in the 8th minute that brought the Reds their victory, tipping in a perfect cross from Ben Spencer, who had been given some space to run by an excellent through-ball from Jay Chapman.
In the first half, TFC II was able to maintain their shape and really stretch Phoenix, making it difficult for the home team to create any attack. Mike Seth had the best opportunity to level the score, capitalizing on a great sliding tackle to come in alone on Pais in the 32nd minute. His left-footed shot went just over the bar, keeping TFC II in the lead. Aside from that, Phoenix was kept at bay; unable to capitalize on the smaller backline of the Reds. Although they managed 5 shots compared to Toronto’s 3, only one was on target and didn’t give Pais much of a challenge.
Endoh had a great opportunity in the 43rd minute when he capitalized on the space he was given to make an attack from right side. Josh Cohen, between the sticks for Phoenix-did a great job of stopping Endoh in his tracks. A minute later, Edwards sent the ball right through the box from the left side, but none of the Reds were able to react quick enough to make good on the opportunity.
In the second half, Phoenix was able to come out strong; picking up a number of great opportunities, particularly in the first 5 minutes. They were able to exploit Toronto’s smaller backline more effectively by using long-balls to make some runs into the box. This will be something Jason Bent will want to keep an eye on, as it is a weakness of the formation in a league where speed is often frequently incorporated into a team’s roster.
There were a few opportunities for goals by both teams in the second half; Spencer found himself alone in the 60th minute but was deftly stood up by Cohen, and Wright-Phillips was able to mobilize Phoenix into a few good attacking opportunities. In the 84th minute, Victor Vasquez-playing his debut USL game for Phoenix, earned a foul deep into Reds territory. AJ Gray lofted the ball too far across, but Phoenix was able to create an opportunity of the subsequent drive, resulting in a perfect setup for a header by Jason Johnson that went just wide. The second half saw a much more potent attack from Phoenix with 9 shots compared to Toronto’s 4, but Toronto’s defending remained effective; Pais was only called on once to keep the scoreline in TFC’s favour.
The game was relatively clean, aside from a somewhat cynical tackle by Greer on Telfer in the 64th minute, ,bringing Telfer to the ground and earning Greer a yellow. Gray also earned a caution from the ref, with Onkony the sole Red to earn a caution.
End Game Stats
Brandon Onkony for Lars Eckenrode (70), Jordan McCrary for Tsubasa Endoh (63), Ricardo John for Ryan Telfer (87)
Not Used: Angelo Cavalluzzo, Anthony Osorio, Liam Fraser