TFC II played a poor first half last week against Canadian rival Vancouver Whitecaps II, but regrouped at half time and were able to earn a point away from home with an impressive header from Jay Chapman, his first professional goal.
For the past three games, the young reds have faced off against MLS affiliated expansion clubs full of the league's prospects. Now they face a daunting task today, facing a veteran squad in the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Riverhounds sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with five points, one point over TFC II.
The Riverhounds are an opponent full of connections to Toronto FC. Players like Tyler Pasher and Kene Eze have been part of the TFC youth, but were released after not making an impression on the coaching staff. Eze was selected 60th overall in the 2014 MLS Draft by TFC, but the Reds did not offer him a contract before the season started. Pasher on the other hand was more welcomed into the team than Eze. Pasher was part of the TFC Academy at a very young age and rose up the ranks to make an appearance in TFC friendly against Liverpool in July 2012. However ,Pasher received a better offer in Finland and played for third division side PS Kemi Kings. That only lasted a year before he found himself back in North America.
Besides these two players, the connection goes higher up the TFC brass. General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko played two seasons with the Riverhounds in 2004-2005, appearing 31 times and tallying one goal.
The Riverhounds have been part of the USL for 17 years, being part of the USL A-League, the USL Second Division, and now finally the USL PRO in 2011. They finished 11th last season and did not qualify for the playoffs.
Since joining USL PRO, they have only made the playoffs twice in four seasons. The team consists of 10 players over the age of 24, showing that a veteran presence will be throughout this Riverhound team.
Players to look out for the Riverhounds would be midfielder Kevin Keer who leads the team in goals so far with three. Midfielder Rob Vincent is also one to be wary about with his two goals and three assists, and striker Vini Dantas can put the ball in the net and might be known from while playing for the Ottawa Fury in the NASL.
Toronto FC II
Last week Jay Chapman scored his first pro goal, but Canadian national keeper Quillan Roberts stole the show with a few key saves that kept his side in the game. Both the young Reds and the Whitecaps II played a physical game, with two red cards shown. Mark Anthony Kaye will miss this game after receiving a red on Sunday, but while TFC II loses a piece of its attack, they gain a defender that can really solve some defensive problems they had during the first three games. Skylar Thomas, a first round pick in this years draft, played his first game last week after missing the first three with an injury. He came on for centre back Daniel Fabrizi in the 61st minute, showing his physical aspect of the game was missed while being out.
I predict TFC II come out with the win here. The Riverhounds have the advantage of experience, but experience doesn't just win games. Energy, coherency, style of play and durability all play a factor. Last week, TFC II showed when something wasn't working, change it and make it work. A tie wouldn't be bad for TFC II early on this season, but a win would push them forward in the Eastern Conference.
The game can be seen at toronto.fc/live at 7 pm EST.