While most of the attention this preseason has been given to Toronto FC and their star players they are not the only squad that has been busy down in Florida. While the first team is taking part in the IMG tournament, Toronto FC II have been busy playing friendlies against the local colleges.
Last week, TFCII picked up a pair of wins over Florida colleges as they continue to prepare for the new season. While neither game was streamed and the highlights are very limited they have still provided up some insight in to what the plan for the team is going to be this season.
In their fist game, TFCII took on University of South Florida and came away with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Manuel Aparicio and Sal Bernal. They followed that up with another win this time knocking off Florida Gulf Coast University 2-1 with Molham Babouli and Bernal providing the goals.
Over the course of the two matches Jason Bent and his coaching staff have already gotten the chance to see a wide variety of different players which should give them a better idea of who will be part of their squad this season. The main question for them will likely be just which players will be made available to them on a regular basis by the first team.
In the first match Alex Bono went the first half in goal keeping a clean sheet. The Generation adidas prospect is the only draft pick already under contract with MLS and could very well wind up being the #1 for the USL team if he does not wind up being Joe Bendik's backup with the first team. Behind him on the depth chart would be Quillan Roberts who had some impressive numbers with Wilmington last season. Roberts played 45 minutes in both of the friendlies keeping a clean sheet during that time. The final keeper that TFCII have used over the course of the two games is Filippo DiBennardo who played the final 45 minutes against Florida Gulf Coast and is the top goalkeeper currently in the academy system having backstopped the League 1 Ontario team to a title last summer.
The back four looks like it could very well be anchored by a pair of first round draft picks in Skylar Thomas and Clement Simonin. The only thing that might stop that partnership from being a force in USL would be Simonin earning minutes in the first team which is becoming more and more possible given how much he seems to be impressive every time he steps on the field. The duo started together in the first game going the full 90 minutes before sharing time in the second match with Thomas starting and Simonin coming on to replace him in the second half of the game.
Behind those two the team could also have Franco Lo Presti who played 90 minutes in the middle of the back line against Florida Gulf Coast. Lo Presti was one of the players who impressed at the USL trials and could earn himself a deal with the club after a strong L1O season last summer. He would also be one of the more veteran players on the roster based on its current makeup.
On the outside it seems to be another draft pick in Wesley Charpie that could be eating up the minutes at right back. He is another one who could have a role to play in the first team given the lack of depth at RB but when available he looks to be the best option for TFCII at that spot. He played the full 90 in the first game and close to an hour in the second match at that spot. The left side seems to be a bit more up for grabs at this point with Raheem Edwards getting the bulk of the minutes through two games. Lo Presti has also logged 45 minutes on the left to go along with his 90 in the middle.
Moving in the the midfield it appears that area will be anchored by a home grown player in Chris Mannella. He is another player who went the full match in the first game before playing the first half in the second one. He should be joined on a regular basis by Aparicio who played the entire first game while getting his name on the scoresheet and then came on for the second half of game two.
The other parts of the midfield seem to be a bit more open with a few different players picking up minutes already. Luca Uccello, a '97 from the academy, has been making a case to be a surprise inclusion in this squad having impressed in the first half against University of South Florida before going the full game in the second match. He is a dangerous midfielder with an eye for goal and could just be one of the younger players on the squad if he continues to play well.
If those three make up the core of the midfield the attacking options have been a bit of a rotating cast around them. Edwin Rivas, Jordan Hamilton, Michael Ramos, Sal Bernal, Kenny Doublette, Molham Babouli, and Mark-Anthony Kaye have all logged some minutes in the attack. It seems unlikely that the club will wind up signing that entire group with Hamilton being the only player already under contract with the club. Bernal, the 70th overall pick, is making a strong case for a spot on the roster thanks to goals in both matches while Babouli has also impressed in his two appearances setting up a number of chances including Bernal's first goal.
On the whole it looks like TFCII could build a competitive roster without having to look outside of the club for much talent. The team has used 7 draft picks, 4 home grown players from the first team, 4 academy players, and 3 trialists over the course of the two games.