Toronto FC II’s game against the Rowdies on Saturday night should be seen as the first real test for the USL squad; only one first-team player (Tsubasa Endoh) played with the young Reds, meaning that Bent fielded a starting 11 that relied upon the USL roster. Absent was Jay Champman, Marky Delgado, and Raheem Edwards: all of whom played with TFC II during their victory over Phoenix Rising and were instrumental in the team’s success.
With the absence of the senior team players, we were able to see how well the players handled themselves; particularly in the midfield. Unfortunately for the young Reds, a lot of work needs to be done. The lack of time together as well as the unfamiliarity with the system was clear in the game. James and Uccello made some attempt at creating play, and Endoh was a workhorse-playing the entire field and becoming very involved in the defensive play of the team. Unfortunately, the Reds spent most of the time on their back heals. The battle was fought in the midfield, where the Rowdies completely dominated through Leo Fernandes and Joe Cole’s tireless pressure.
As noted above, TFC II fielded the starting xi that will be increasingly common in the next few months. Significantly less positions were taken up by senior team players, giving some of the younger USL players a chance to start.
Forwards: Ben Spencer, Ryan Telfer
Midfielders: Tsubasa Endoh, Anthony Osorio, Lucca Uccello, Brian James, and Liam Fraser
Defenders: Lars Eckenrode, Brandon Aubrey, and Jason Hernandez
Keeper: Mark Pais
Mark Pais was one of the standout players of the match, which shows how the game went. Despite the Rowdies finding the net 4 times in the game, Pais is the reason that the score line wasn’t even more broad. Tsubasa Endoh was also a solid worker, tirelessly tracking back and helping to defend. Unfortunately, this meant that Endoh was unable to take advantage of the pockets of space that he was so clinical in against Phoenix.
Bad communication by the Reds resulted in a Rowdies corner within the first minute of the game; this was the first clue of the direction the game was headed. Damien Lowe’s header went wide, but the opportunity would not be the last for Tampa Bay. Toronto’s first and last big opportunity of the first half came in the 8th minute, when Spencer and Telfer combined to give Spencer an opportunity; but the shot went wide. The rest of the half was a picture of total domination by the Rowdies.
3 minutes after Spencer’s shot went wide, the Rowdies were able to earn another corner after spreading Toronto’s defence and forcing the play. Michael Nanchoff’s corner drifted into the centre of the box, with Tampa immediately taking control through some quick passing that found its way back to Nanchoff. Another quick cross from Nanchoff gave Lowe the service he needed, who’s header would find the back of the net.
2 minutes later, the Rowdies earned another corner with Nanchoff’s cross providing excellent service for Neill Collins, who’s header looked to be heading into the netting before TFC’s Luca Uccello blocked the ball with his legs. The Rowdies maintained possession until play had to be stopped when Lars Eckenrode was brought down hard. Eckenrode had to be subbed off for Brandon Onkony 2 minutes later. Onkony is an Academy player who had been called up for the occasion.
Toronto’s nightmare continued in the 19th minute when a through-ball made it right through Toronto defense to give Georgi Hristov a one-on-one with Mark Pais. Hrivstov made no mistake, driving the ball above Pais’ left arm into the netting. 2 minutes later, Toronto’s defense again fell apart, allowing a 4 on 2 push by the Rowdies which might as well have been a 4 on 0. The Rowdies were able to take their time passing the ball, eventually providing Cole with a wide open net to score on to make it 3-0 in the first 20 minutes of the game.
It was not until the 39th minute that Toronto was able to put anything together-Osorio was able to provide a cross and the young Reds continued the pressure and maintained possession for a few minutes until the Rowdies regained the ball. Tsubasa Endoh’s free kick in the 42nd minute resulted in a deflection from the Rowdies keeper which landed at Liam Fraser’s feet. Unfortunately, Fraser couldn’t control his kick and it went wide of the net.
The second half started with a Toronto side that must have taken Bent’s halftime talk seriously. They came onto the field looking to put something together, and earned their first corner of the game in the 50th minute. Endoh’s kick was cleared by the Rwodies, but Toronto was able to maintain possession, leading to a great chance for Spencer who found himself right in front of the net with the ball. It was disappointing to see him not attempt to turn-choosing to hold onto possession instead of attempting a shot on goal.
Shortly after, Toronto earned a free kick in a dangerous position. Endoh stood over the ball and provided some good service to the far post, but Ryan Telfer’s run collided with Akira Fitzgerald and the Rowdie keeper earned a foul and relief of pressure.
After the first 10 minutes of the half, the Rowdies were able to again assert themselves as the dominant side of the game. In the 54th minute, a great long ball provided Nanchoff with a scoring opportunity that went right into Mark Pais’ arms. Again, in the 56th minute Cole entered dangerous space from the right side and tested Pais and only seconds later Nanchoff struck a left footer that made Pais come up big.
In the 61st minute, Pais came out of his box to stop a menacing attack from the Rowdies that would have resulted on a clear shot on goal if Pais hadn’t proactively shut down the play. The fact that Pais looked strong in this game is evidence of how much Toronto’s defense broke down. The score line would have been even wider if Pais had not worked tirelessly to support his team.
Unfortunately for Pais, there is only so much a keeper can do against a dominant side. Deshorn Brown, who came on to replace Joe Cole in the 66th minute, was able to cushion the Rowdies’ lead even more after getting on the end of Marcel Shaefer’s cross.
The rest of the half saw both teams begin to resign themselves to the score line. Tampa Bay were able to create a few more opportunities but no goals resulted. Sergio Camargo provided some life to the Reds when he came on in the 71st minute, setting up a good chance; but again, Toronto was unable to take advantage of the opportunity.
Brandon Onkony for Lars Eckenrode (20th minute)
Sergio Camargo for Ryan Telfer (71st minute)