This year will be something different for Toronto FC. Now, the team doesn't have to send its top prospects to Wilimington, it can just send them a few kilometers away to Vaughan where Toronto FC II will play its home games. Now without further ado, let's see who will make the cut for the new TFC II side that will begin play on March 21st in Charleston and won't be home in Vaughan until July 4th against FC Montreal.
This lineup is subject to change considering the TFC coaching staff may change their opinions on some players. Players from the first team may be sent down and players from the second team may be called up. Players like Quillian Roberts, Alex Bono, Clement Simonin, Chris Mannella and Jordan Hamilton could potentially be called up.
GK: Quillan Roberts
Summary: Roberts spent all of last year in Wilimington where he had a successful campaign manning the net for the Hammerheads. Roberts started 17 games and led the team in Goals Against Average and had five clean sheets. He even finished fifth in the USL with the lowest amount of goals conceded with 20.
Why?: Roberts gets the nod for me to become the first goalie for the new TFC team because he has proven his abilities wherever the team puts him. He rose through the Academy ranks to play for the, now defunt, reserve team. He has been called up to play for the first team in a friendly against EPL side Tottenham, and has played for the U17 and U20 Canadian national teams. Roberts has proven he can handle a full load, and not to mention that he knows the USL since he has already spent a year there.
RB: Wesley Charpie
Summary: Charpie was drafted 29th overall by TFC in this years draft. He comes from the University of South Florida, the team that TFC II defeated 2-0 on Friday. Charlie played 81 games for USF over four seasons, with five goals and 21 assists. He even ranked fourth on the TopDrawSoccer.com of Top 20 players in the ACC (American Athletic Conference). Charpie also got the opportunity to train in England during the summer of 2010 with both Blackburn and Aston Villa.
Why?: Charpie was a starter throughout his NCAA career, and can handle the role. He has been playing well for TFC II throughout the pre season, and even played the full 90 minutes versus Florida Gulf Coast University. TFC II head coach Jason Bent seems to be relying on Charpie to start for the second team, and even help mature his game so when the first team comes calling, he will be ready.
CB: Clement Simonin
Summary: Clement who? That's what many people were saying when TFC picked the 6'1 French defender with the 9th overall pick this year. Simonin comes from the NCAA Division I team North Carolina State from the same conference in which Wesley Charpie played his college career (ACC). Simonin joined NC State in 2013 from Lander University where he had two goals and three assists in 32 games. He had four goals and added six assists in 17 games for the Wolfpack.
Why?: Simonin is from Lorient, France and would take a international slot up. There would be no point for Simonin to be on the bench for the most part, not getting the minutes he needs to develop. Simonin has impressed TFC head coach Greg Vanney throughout the offseason. With the Reds adding Damien Perquis and Eriq Zavaleta this offseason to help fill the void in the centre, it'll be hard for Simonin to make the first team. With TFC II he'll play more and gain more confidence, and could even make the first team if they see he is improving or if someone goes down with an injury.
CB Skylar Thomas
Summary: Another pick from this year's draft, Skylar Thomas adds size and strength to the backline. The Scarborough native joined Syracuse University in 2011 and played 37 games tallying up five goals and an assist. While with the Orange, Thomas was able to help his side through 16 shutouts and was named the Mayors Cup XXXVI Garth Stam Defensive MVP.
Why?: Like Simonin, Thomas can also be called up to the first team if someone gets hurt of improves his game. Thomas adds size and with that, can help a team that allowed 54 goals last year. Thomas is still young, so time with TFC II will help grow his game. He played 90 minutes versus USF on the 19th and played 60 Sunday versus Florida Gulf Coast. Head Coach Jason Bent wants to give Thomas all the opportunity he can so he can make a better judgement on whether Thomas starts for his side, and it looks like that he will considering he can stop runs from happening and communicates well with his fellow defenders.
LB Raheem Edwards
Summary: Edwards is someone different than those above. He didn't start off for the TFC Academy and he didn't get drafted this year. Edwards joins TFC II from ANB Futbol of League 1 Ontario where he won 1st team Young All Star and then went on to led his Sheridan Bruins to a CAA Soccer Championship, where he then earned OCAA Rookie of the Year.
Why?: Edwards had a good 2014 season. He was a 1st Team All Star for League 1 Ontario, he then wins a College Soccer Championship, and to top it all off with Best Rookie Award. TFC saw Edwards well when he faced the Academy in League 1 action, so it was a no brainer to at least invite him to training camp. Edwards has really impressed the coaching staff, and coach Bent has repaid him with 45 minutes of action in the opener and then a full 90 on Sunday.
CDM: Franco Lo Presti
Summary: The Whitby native spent four years at Rhode Island University with only one assist in 34 games. Lo Presti is seen as a defensive player, who can play either in the middle or has a full back. His time with the Rams saw him only receive an Ocean State Soccer Classic All Tournament team award in 2011. Lo Presti played for the Woodbridge Strikers team competing in the L1O.
Why?: Lo Presti has been impressing the coaching staff in Florida so far, and has had a long journey to the pro ranks. Lo Presti adds age, being 25 years old, to a young team and can help players with his experience. The TFC II coaching staff seems to be liking what Lo Presti can do, featured for 45 minutes in the first game, and then he played the whole game against Florida Gulf Coast. Lo Presti also adds squad depth by being able to play in the back line, on the wings as a full back and finally in the middle.
CM: Chris Mannella
Summary: Mannella became the tenth homegrown player to make the jump from the Academy to the first team. Mannella was the captain of the Academy this past year, where he scored two goals and played solid in his central role. Mannella's play in the middle made TFC coaching staff take notice of the young talent they have playing for them. He made the jump to the first team in September, but didn't get to play any games. Before playing for the Academy, Mannella played one year at University of Toronto where he played 13 games and scored once.
Why?: Mannella has been playing exceptional well for TFC II while they are in Florida. He has played the full 90 against USF and played the first half against Florida Gulf Coast. He has made head coach Jason Bent take notice of his play, proving to be the right fit in the middle. He has exceptional passing and has the attitude that is rare to find in such a young player. Mannella earned the captaincy for the Academy, maybe its time to give it to him again with TFC II?
CM: Manny Aparicio
Summary: Aparico, like Mannella and Roberts, made the jump from the Academy to the first team, however also like those two, he hasn't played for the first team yet. Aparicio came in 29th on our Top 30 TFC player list this year, impressing both at the Academy and in Wilmington. Aparicio was called back up at the end of August, but didn't log any minutes for the Reds. While with the Hammerheads, he made 20 appearances starting ten times for the team. He recorded a goal, but still earned the playing time he needed to improve. He didn't play a big role for the Hammerheads and compared to the other Academy players that went to Wilmington, he was the worst, that doesn't mean he was awful, just not as good compared to the best.
Why?: Aparicio may not have impressed his Hammerheads coaching staff a whole lot, but he has impressed his TFC II staff by playing a good soccer in their pre-season games. He has played 135 minutes for the second team so far, playing as a central midfielder who can move up and join the attack. Aparicio recorded a goal so far this pre- season, pulling off a beautiful chip that passed the defender and beat the USF keeper. Aparicio even made the senior Canadian team when they played Colombia in the fall, and had a go with a free kick. Aparicio has gone through a lot while playing for TFC and has also learned a lot. The fans should be impressed with his game, even though he doesn't score goals he plays well in the middle and will make a great duo with Mannella
RM: Luca Uccello
Summary: Uccello is a product from the Academy team, along with his brother Julian, that played in L1O this past year. The Markham native netted seven goals and played an impressive fast paced game on the wings, being able to cut in and find teammates. He may not have been the standout player on the team, but he did find ways to distribute the ball to teammates. Not to mention that Uccello is born in '97 and would be the youngest of the his teammates at TFC II. He has played exceptionally well for TFC II so far, trying to cut in and find ways to get goals. Uccello logged 45 minutes in the first game and a 90 minute performance on Sunday.
Why?: Uccello seems to have impressed coach Bent, which may be the reason why he played the full 90 on Sunday. Uccello can help this already young team with his speed and technique. Just because he is younger than the rest of the team, doesn't mean he should be left off. Uccello is also capable of delivering corners that end up being goals and can jump start an attack.
LM: Molham Babouli
Summary: Babouli had a very good 2014. He helped lead his Academy to a L1O championship and also lead the league in goals. Babouli scored so many goals, he had a hat trick before halftime in a game that saw his side win 11-0. That's not all for Babouli, he helped lead his Sheridan Bruins to the OCAA Championship this past fall playing 10 games and proving to be a clinical finisher. Scouts said that Babouli wasn't good enough for the higher levels of soccer due to his lack of scoring before this past year. Now he seems to be on a mission to end that view by being surrounded by good players who can help distribute the ball and send Babouli through. He was snubbed by TFC before and fell through the ranks since he didn't play to his potential. That may be due to him not having the right players to help him get opportunities, but clearly with both Sheridan and TFCA, he found the right teammates.
Why?: Babouli has proven himself this past year. He has led L1O with 26 goals, won the league MVP, and has won two separate Championships within a year. Babouli feel through the cracks last time, and now he'll do whatever it takes to make sure his name stays on that TFC jersey. Coach Bent has given him plenty of time this pre season with 45 minutes against USF and a full game on the 22nd. Babouli is seen as a poacher, and can find his way through a defence. He has worked on his finishing and can improve a little more, but I see Babouli given more time with TFC II to grow his game.
ST: Jordan Hamilton
Summary: Hamilton is a Scarborough native and a former TFCA player who made the jump to the first team. He played for the team when they faced Tottenham last summer, like Roberts did. Hamilton verbally committed to join the University of Maryland last year, but TFC signed him out of the Academy and sent him to their USL affiliate Wilimginton where he played 11 games and netted five goals. From there he went to Portugal, to play for second division team CD Trofense. He only appeared five times, and then later returned at the end of the summer to rejoin the Reds. His time in Portugal may have been short, but he learned a lot from playing against a whole different set of players that he wouldn't be able to see over in North America.
Why?: Hamilton is clear favourite to make TFC II as a striker, and may even make the first team. He would be a replacement if a striker gets hurt or not performing well, but as of now playing for the second team would allow him way more minutes compared to playing for the first team. With the addition of striker Jozy Altidore and players like Luke Moore and Bright Dike still playing, Hamilton's minutes would be limited. He has proven he can score and may need more time to gain confidence and fines. He has played 45 minutes in both games so far, due to the fact that coach Bent doesn't want to tire him out already since he knows what Hamilton can do. His time with TFC as a whole will be juggled around by playing for the first and second teams, which should allow Hamilton to get the feel of both the USL and the MLS. He is still a young player at the age of 18.