TFC II may have just been in vacation mode for the past two weeks, but tonight, they are going to have to shake off the rust they may have and look for the third win of the season in front of the home crowd.
Tonight's opponent may seem familiar. A former Toronto FC affiliate comes to BMO to battle the new USL PRO club. The Wilmington Hammerheads will look to show that they are not just a former TFC affiliate, they are going to try and show that they are a club that can win with their own players.
FC II's last match was two weeks ago when they took on the Harrisburg City Islanders in a dramatic finish that saw the clubs defence and keeper, Quillan Roberts, stand on their heads to make sure they secured a draw. It was their second draw in consecutive matches and tonight are looking for something more.
The Hammerheads are coming off a win against rivals FC Montreal on Thursday, defeating them 2-1. It was just the Hammerheads third win of the season and are now two points clear of TFC II in the standings.
The Hammerheads have been in existence now for 19 years and have been part of the USL's long history. Starting off in the Pro League, then Pro select League, and finally the USL Second Division was their last stop before the current USL PRO has been assembled. They were a club on hiatus in 2010, but were back at it the next season. In 2012, they even made the finals, losing 1-0 to the Charleston Battery.
With the help of some current TFC II players, Quillan Roberts, Manuel Aparicio, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jordan Hamilton, last season saw the club with a 10-10-8 record, which was good enough for a playoff spot.
Even though they are now not an affiliate with TFC, the Hammerheads are still a team to be wary of. Players like Paul Nicholson, who TFC II head coach Jason Bent said is very good on both feet and has a good range of passing. Midfielder Nick Zimmerman, and his team leading three goals should be marked tightly tonight, if the young Reds want to keep up their strong defensive performances. Meanwhile there is Sunny Jane, who can use his speedy legs to get by opponents and have goes on goal. His 21 shots are the most on the Hammerheads roster.
Wilmington sit third last in shots on goal this season, however that is still better than TFC II, who sit in last in the league. The two clubs actually are very even in stats. In the goals category, the Hammerheads have 14 and TFC II have 10. The opposite can be said in goals allowed, with TFC II only conceding 10 goals, while the Hammerheads have concede 14.
For TFC II to win this game, they are going to have to be aggressive and play like a home team. Something they haven't really been able to do a lot this season.
"We're going to be playing a home game and trying to get the crowd into it, trying to maximize possession and trying to create as many chances as possible is going to be key for us." said head coach Jason Bent about what the club is going to need to do differently tonight.
"We don't need to score in the first 10-15 minutes, we just got to make sure we're strong defensively, and then create chances as the game goes on."
Bent went on to say that, "We have to now be the aggressor. It's different when your on the away matches. Sometimes you can sit back a little more, be a little more compact and catch teams on the break. Naturally when you play on the road, you may not have majority of possession. Now we have to learn how to play at home, and how to control the game and create chances."
That is key for the young Reds tonight if they want to go home with three points, instead of just one. One thing the team seems to be lacking of is that aggression on the ball and making the other team shift around and make adjustments to their style of play.
"We haven't scored as many goals as we would like to. Especially being at home now, we can get an early goal and kind of settle the game down and play our own style and manage the game we want to, we'll be successful." said TFC II captain Chris Mannella, who has shown his leadership on the field.
"There going to come out hard, its our hometown, they want to show that they got more than just an affiliate team with us." Mannella continued to say.
It doesn't matter if the Hammerheads play in North Carolina and haven't even played TFC II before, the battle of former and current affiliates is on tonight.
"It's definetly going to be a rivalry. I know they are going to come out full swing. Getting a home game is great, we know the fans will help us and push us to keep on going." said former Hammerhead Manuel Aparicio.
Even though TFC II need a win tonight, a draw wouldn't be a bad result for the club. Wilmington and the young Reds seem to be very even in regards to goals, shots and goals conceded. If TFC II can start the game in control and retain the most possession, then they may be awarded the winner in this match. However, I think TFC II and the Hammerheads will draw this match 1-1 and TFC II will earn its 10th point of the season.
Come support TFC II tonight when the take on the Wilmington Hammerheads at BMO at 8:00 PM EST. If you have tickets to Toronto FC's match against DC United today, you can stay and watch the future of TFC.
You can also watch the game live on torontofc.ca/live.