Toronto FC II finished the 2016 season in the disappointing position of third last in the Eastern Conference. Jason Bent will be hoping to take his squad higher this year, developing the winning culture that an academy team aspires to. Bent will have a few new names to add to his starting eleven, as Toronto FC has acquired a number of players they will be looking to develop this year. He will also be responsible for teaching his players the 3-5-2 formation that has become a staple of the first-team’s operations, although a new formation may come down the pipe early in the season as Greg Vanney accommodates his new number ten player Victor Vazquez.
|Martin Davis||Option Declined||December 19, 2016|
|Nathan Ingham||Loan Expired||December 19, 2016|
|Triston Hodge||Loan Expired||December 19, 2016|
|Skylar Thomas||Contract Expired||December 19, 2016|
|Wesley Charpie||Contract Expired||December 19, 2016|
|Adam Bouchard||Contract Expired||December 19, 2016|
|Sal Bernal||Contract Expired||December 19, 2016|
|Ben Spencer||Contract Expired||December 19, 2016|
|Raheem Edwards*||Signed to First Team||March 2, 2017|
Some of the players released by Toronto FC II during this off-season are not a huge surprise to observers, as they accumulated a small amount of appearances this previous season. Triston Hodge, Ben Spencer, and Nathan Ingham saw minimal action in 2016, and Adam Bouchard and Martin Davis were limited to 9 appearances each. The most significant changes come on the backline, as Toronto’s USL squad looks to improve their defensive record.
Skylar Thomas, at the time of writing, has not been offered a 2017 contract, nor has Wesley Charpie. Thomas made 25 appearances in the 2016 season and Charpie made 22. The absence of these two players will significantly change the appearance of Bent’s starting xi.
Sal Bernal made 23 appearances in the 2016 season and will be the most significant absence to Toronto FC II’s front line. Yet, it is not surprising to see Toronto part ways with the Mexican forward, given the focus on developing players for the first team. Bernal had been drafted in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, but was cut from camp and sent to the USL team almost immediately. It was highly unlikely he would ever be able to move to the first team, especially given the depth of Toronto’s offensive players.
Although signed to the first team, Raheem Edwards will likely spend most of this season continuing his work for TFC II, while trying to break into the first-team lineup. Already, he has made a very successful appearance with the first team against Vancouver.
|Mitchell Taintor||Option Exercised||December 19, 2016|
|Anthony Osorio||Option Exercised||December 19, 2016|
|Brian James||Option Exercised||December 19, 2016|
|Luca Uccello||Option Exercised||December 19, 2016|
|Ricardo John||Option Exercised||December 19, 2016|
|Angela Cavalluzzo||Signed to USL Deal||February 10, 2017|
|Mark Pais||Signed to USL Deal||March 7, 2017|
|Jordan McCrary||Signed to USL Deal||March 9, 2017|
2017 Starting Roster
Mitchell Taintor and Anthony Osorio are the two returning defensive players for Toronto FC II, both having made regular appearances in the 2016 season (23 and 24 respectively). They will be joined by newly signed Jordon McCrary, who was selected 10th in the 2016 SuperDraft by New England and signed by Toronto FC II on March 9th. The defensive line will likely be rounded out by regular appearances from loaned 1st team players (discussed below).
The bulk of the midfielders will be returning for the 2017 season. Luca Uccello and Brian James both had their options exercised; Aidan Daniels, Liam Fraser, Bubacarr Jobe, and Malik Johnson will be continuing their contracts.
One of the most interesting players to return for the 2017 season will be Ricardo John-a Trinidad & Tobago striker who was signed at the tail-end of the 2016 season and scored 3 goals in his 4 appearances. It will be interesting to see if he is able to maintain his attacking intensity during the span of an entire season. He will be competing with Malik Johnson for attention-as Johnson’s star continues to rise. Shaan Hundal will be entering his second season and hoping to increase his 2016 successes as well-top brass will have their eyes on him to gauge his potential.
Minding the sticks, Angela Cavalluzzo will be competing with newly signed Mark Pais for the regular goalkeeper position. With Quillan Roberts released from the first team, and Alex Bono solidly in the number 2 spot for the first team, the two USL goalkeepers should both have opportunities to shine for TFC II.
To round out the roster, we can expect the standard rotating door of players coming and going from the first team. The players most likely to make appearances for TFC II on loan are Jordon Hamilton, Mo Babouli, and Raheem Edwards up front, Sergio Camargo as an attacking midfielder, and Ashtone Morgan and Brandon Aubrey on the defensive line. The three strikers will likely see a rotation on the first team bench, with Jordon Hamilton likely spending the most time with the first team. Although Jay Chapman was present for TFC II’s preseason game, he can be expected to spend most of his time with the first team. The rotating door means that Bent will be responsible for continually adapting his attacking strategy to a changing roster of players. Thankfully, his midfield and defensive team should have more continuity. Sergio Camargo can expect his MLS debut this year, but will spend most of his time developing his craft in the USL. Camargo is the most logical backup to TFC II’s new acquisition Victor Vazquez, and will slot nicely into the 3-5-2 formation.
Preseason and International Play
Toronto FC II’s preseason game against the Ottawa Fury FC was a good start for the season, as the squad was able to come away with a 2-1 victory. The game was played at the Kia Training Ground on March 3, and gave the players an opportunity to gel together, as well as allow Bent to see how well his squad handled competitive play. Brian James was the standout player of the match for Toronto, scoring both goals for the Reds to bring them back from the initial 1-0 deficit.
Along with TFC II’s preseason play, many of the players had the opportunity to represent their country in international play. Liam Fraser, Aidan Daniels, Luca Uccello, and Shaan Hundal all represented Canada in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Shaan Hundal received the captain’s armband and was a leader on the pitch throughout the tournament-playing every minute for Canada and connecting on 89% of his slightly less than 100 passes. Likewise, Shaan Hundal had a particularly positive experience against Antigua & Barbuda. Hundal had a number of close opportunities but was denied by the crossbar twice, until in the 90th minute he was able to put the game away giving Canada the brace.
Starting the Season
Toronto FC II will play their first game against Phoenix Rising on March 25th at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. Phoenix is a team that Toronto has no experience playing, so it will be an interesting matchup with no prior results to follow. Their home opener is slotted for April 7th against the powerful Rochester Rhinos, who finished 4th in the conference. A difficult matchup at best-unlike their first-team counterpart, the USL squad must be viewed as the underdog team. Yet, future stars certainly exist in the squad, and if Bent can bring out the raw abilities that players like Hundal, Johnson, Camargo, and James have-this will be an interesting season to watch.