Before even getting into a discussion about the game itself there is something that must be addressed: does any of this really matter? In truth, tonight's match against Tottenham Hotspur does matter for Toronto FC, but not for the obvious reasons. The result is meaningless, a 3-2 loss would have been no different any other way, so long as it didn't go too far in either direction.
The match doesn't matter to the regulars in TFC's lineup either. They displayed that pretty clearly, showing incredibly little effort in the first half against a Spurs team doing the same. For them there is little to be gained. Any notion that one of them might really get noticed in this match was clearly dismissed by Tottenham Manager Mauricio Pochettino post-match. When asked if any players stood out to him on Toronto FC, he laughed quietly and then said Jermain Defoe.
But where this match does matter for Toronto FC, is for their young and unused players. That was the clear contrast between the first and second half: players who cared replacing players who didn't. This year that sentiment was clearer than any other friendly.
"[The young players] get experience," said Ryan Nelsen. "I know it's kind of cliché to say you rub shoulders with world class players, but it actually does give you a kind of parameter. It did to me when I played [top sides] when I was in DC. It makes you realize ‘well hang on I can actually compete against these guys'."
With Toronto's first choice lineup the attack was stagnant and without any sort of threat. Gilberto showed flashes of interest, but the club didn't have the ball nearly enough for him to do anything about it. When a second, even third, choice attacking unit of Andrew Wiedeman, Jordan Hamilton and Dwayne De Rosario came on, the club undid all of the first half damage within half an hour.
Wiedeman, for his part, is a player who has fallen completely off of Nelsen's radar this year. Last year, the striker showed that he had the ability to find the back of the net, even if he wasn't blessed with technical ability. It didn't take him long to demonstrate that he still has that knack, scoring TFC's opening goal shortly after coming on at halftime. He also set up the equalizer.
Another player who had a very dominant performance for Toronto was Daniel Lovitz, who played the full ninety minutes. Lovitz has consistently been good in every situation the club have slotted him in so far this season. This was no different, as he was the club's biggest offensive spark throughout the match, setting up Wiedeman's goal.
"[He's] another young kid who is getting better each day," said Nelsen of Lovitz. "He had a very good game playing against a couple of experienced defenders in obviously [Kyle] Naughton and Kyle Walker, world class defenders."
Defensively, Ashtone Morgan looked solid in his return to the lineup. Another player who was given the opportunity to play the entire match, Morgan demonstrated that he still may have a role with this team. If not, the idea that his professional career is over, as some have suggested, seems to be highly exaggerated.
The benefit of the Wilmington Hammerheads was also evident in this match. Quillan Roberts has clearly learned plenty with more starting time in a professional environment. He looked significantly more comfortable at this stage than ever before in his career, and isn't too far removed from being Joe Bendik's backup.
But the most obvious byproduct of the Wilmington deal was the play of Jordan Hamilton, the 18 year old striker. Hamilton has long been considered one of the top prospects in Canadian soccer, blessed with a rare ability when it comes to the national team setup: scoring goals. But his talent was always considered fairly raw, as is the case with most players of his age and experience. Hamilton has matured exponentially during his time with the Hammerheads, looking both refined and confident in this match.
"It really helped that I was in Wilmington," said Hamilton. "I'm used to getting games [now]."
Both of these attributes came into play during his very well taken goal, the most positive moment of the match for Toronto FC. It was a moment that turned the heads of many, including Jermain Defoe.
"He's someone who impressed me from day one," said Defoe of Hamilton. "He's strong and he can score goals. I've come in and I've tried to help him, spoken to him about a couple of things. He looks like he's come back [from Wilmington] match fit."
For his part, Defoe backtracked slightly on his statement last week that this was a meaningless match for the club. He realised that all of this was for him, and seemed genuinely humbled in the end. It probably helped a little bit that he cannot play this weekend even if he so desires due to yellow card accumulation.
"I just love playing football," said Defoe. "I always have fun. At the age of 31 to still wake up in the morning and enjoy training and the matches, I still get the same buzz. For me that's important."
The scheduling could be a lot better, the ridiculous way Toronto advertise their opposition could also be changed. But just by speaking to the young players and seeing their reactions after the match this clearly meant something to them. These matches are going to happen for the foreseeable future, so Toronto FC might as well make the most out of them.