On Wednesday night, Toronto FC took on English Preimer League side Manchester City in a friendly that ended with the English side defeating TFC 1-0 after a late goal in the 85th minute off a wonder goal from prospect George Evans.
Even though TFC lost the game, their was many positives to take from the game. First the obvious, only conceding one goal against a team that played the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero. Their defence was at top level, even though Eriq Zavaleta left the game in the 80th minute and TFC II captain Chris Mannella had to move back into a centre back role.
Players like keeper Alex Bono, midfielders Mannella, Manuel Aparicio, Jay Chapman and striker Jordan Hamilton all played key roles and had chances on goal.
Bono came on in the 28th minute after Joe Bendik needed to come off, and after that, he played lights out goalkeeping. Being able to stop chances from David Silva and even Argentina international Sergio Aguero.
Playing against a team like Manchester City
"It was excellent. I was very proud for a lot of the guys. [Alex] Bono played well, Jay Hams [Jordan Hamilton], Chris [Mannella], Manu [Aparicio] played really well. It was good and I'm very happy for them." said TFC II centre back Skylar Thomas who wasn't called up for the game, but still was in attendance to cheer on his teammates.
Playing a top club like Manchester City isn't an easy task. No matter if they put out their youth squad or worst players. Is the idea of facing a team wit so many world class players a good thing for a team like Toronto FC to play against?
"I think it's an excellent idea." said Thomas "It's a great chance to see world class players play, and see how they do it. As long as we take out after them, were on the right track."
Keeper Alex Bono, who came on for Joe Bendik agrees with his teammate. "It's something you never think that you're going to experience. Then all of a sudden, you get subbed on in the 28th minute and you're going head to head with those guys.
"It's weird watching them every Saturday on TV and now all of sudden their on our home pitch. It was really cool to be out there with the quality of players they have."
Bono then added that, "It was an unbelievable experience. Not just for me but for the rest of the guys. It's a level that we never played at. It's good to get out there against those guys and see the level they play over there."
Being able to play for the first team is a great accomplishment for young players. When teams face off in friendlies with top clubs from around the world, it really does help grow a players development and see how they fair against a whole different type of player.
"Everything I do, whether it come from being with the first team or experiences like yesterday. Bringing it back for the younger guys and we try to experience it as well. They live through us guys that are up with the first team, and we bring it down to them so they can share the experience as well." said Bono about being able to share all their knowledge of the game to the younger players.
19 year old Manuel Aparicio, who played hist first match at BMO for Toronto FC said that it's very important for young players to get the opportunity to play a team like Manchester City so then can grow into better players. "Yeah for sure. Especially for us young guys to get our chance to get minutes with the first team and to see what world class players are and how they play."
Bono played a top notch game for TFC, making some real key saves. Those saves seemed to really bother players like Sergio Aguero and David Silva who pumped a lot of shots on goal. Bono was a victim of hard shot off his head by Silva, but the keeper was able to shake it off and continue.
"The nose and the jaw are a little sore today, but headaches gone away and I'm good to go."
During his stellar performance, Bono also had to deal with a cracker of a shot from Man City youth player George Evans who nicely slotted a ball over a diving Bono in the later minutes of the game.
"I thought it was over wide, and I saw him line up to hit it and I kind of got myself set. I got a good flight, good track on the ball and I took my steps to get their and I went for it. I don't know how close I was, I'll have to watch it again and see. It was a pretty well placed shot." said Bono.
For a player like TFC II midfielder Manuel Aparicio, who was born in Argentina, and getting the opportunity to play against fellow countrymen like Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis, it must have been surreal for him. "It was mind boggling when [Sergio] Agureo, [Pablo] Zabaleta, [Martin] Demichelis all of them. It was an amazing experience to play against them."
Aparicio then added that, "All my family and all my friends were there, also our USL team. They're all supporting us as well."
Jason Bent was present at the game on Wednesday and was, "Very nervous to be honest."he jokingly said. "But [I] was pleased with their effort and were dangerous on a few occasions with Jordan Hamilton and Manuel Aparicio so that was pleasing to see."
The quality of Manchester City versus the quality of the MLS/USL
"Obviously it's a different level of quality. The style of play I wouldn't say is much different. They probably keep the ball a little bit more than MLS teams do. Just the way they process the game, the way they think on the field is so much different." said keeper Alex Bono.
"I think in the USL its more of a physical battle. Not as much technical, but when you play against guys like Silva and Aguero dribbling, the ball doesn't leave their foot. Its totally different the way they play and style of play." said TFC I midfielder Manuel Aparicio.
Dealing with another bye week
"Recover our legs a little bit. Now were working on breaking lines, passing through the middle, turning, holding up the ball as well. Right now were working on our link play." mentioned centre back Skylar Thomas, who is starting to become a mainstay on that TFC II backline.
"Staying focus, knowing every practice means a lot." added Thomas.
"We've had a lot of bye weeks already. Were just mentally staying sharp and doing the little things in the gym or in the physio room to stay sharp." said Manny Aparicio.
Jason Bent went on to say a reason why TFC II is having a lot of bye weeks now is because their stadium is not finished yet, but knows that come July, a lot of games will be played. "You'd love to be playing for another four days after Saturday, but such as the schedule we don't have a proper home at the moment in time so I think that's contributing to the scheduling. We know what's coming come July, there's going to be games think and thin." said Bent.
What are TFC II working on while some players are with the first team and being on a bye week?
"Trying to get some fringe players that haven't got as many minutes, increasing their fitness level, but still getting some specifics work done."
The big question for a team like TFC II that they have to deal with is knowing how to work with players that may leave the team to play for the first squad and how to use the teams more younger players.
"We knew this was what it was going to be like going in. My job is to provide the first team with players whether that be for unfortunate circumstances through injury or just a bot of luck. We just keep moving on, we replace them with younger players coming up from the Academy which allows them to be tested." said TFC II head coach Jason Bent.