It was a fine way to close the home portion of a poor season, defeating Orlando City B 2-1 on Sunday night at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
In front of a boisterous crowd, TFC II scored twice after conceding an early goal to overcome the visitors, ending a five-match losing streak and stretching Orlando's winless run to seven, spoiling the Baby Lions hopes of solidifying their playoff position.
In front of a boisterous crowd, energized by some free T-shirts and Ashtone Morgan signing autographs pre-match, it all began with a familiar sinking feeling.
Orlando City B took the early lead when Michael Cox was allowed to muscle between two defenders straight from a left-sided throw-in before beating Quillan Roberts to the far-side with a scuffed shot.
Roberts, who could only watch as the dribbling ball banked in off the far-post, will have wanted to do better with that one, but his defense let him down, allowing Cox to break in so easily.
That strike only served to awaken TFC II, who bossed much of the remaining forty first-half minutes.
Malik Johnson sent some shots from distance at goal, though they were either blocked or well off-target. But come the 28th minute, TFC II would not be denied again when Shaan Hundal leveled.
Wesley Charpie pushed forward up the right before laying back to Liam Fraser, who sent an inviting ball into the middle. Hundal got his head on the effort, but was denied by an excellent stop from OCB keeper, Mark Ridgers.
Undaunted, Hundal stayed alert and was on hand to tap in the loose ball when the keeper was unable to corral the rebound.
Ricardo John nearly added a second for the Young Reds minutes later when a Luca Uccello ball found him down the left, but his sculpted right-footer bent just over the top-right corner of goal.
The two teams would enter the half level at ones.
A flurry of substitutions ensued before TFC II nearly added another.
Johnson, cutting in-field from the left, picked out the run of Brian James into acres of space on the right-side of the area, but some astute back-tracking from Pierre Da Silva allowed him to get in the last-ditch blocking tackle.
Johnson then found himself in down the right, but could not pick out the near-side on Ridgers, the keeper tipping the effort, that looked off the frame, out for a corner kick.
TFC II would find a well-deserved winner in the 70th minute when John got on the end of a Raheem Edwards ball at the left-post, nodding past the Orlando keeper.
The play began with an Uccello cross from the right, that was marvellously won by the diminuitive Edwards. He brought it down, then managed to touch past a defender before clipping a ball into the middle for John to pounce.
With TFC II in the lead and Orlando desperate for an equalizer, it fell to Roberts to come up huge with a pair of saves in the final ten minutes: clawing a corner kick off the line and then staying big to get palms to a Da Silva drive from the top of the box.
Granted, Roberts misread the flight on the initial delivery, but more than made up for it with some acrobatic reflexes.
The match also saw Ben Spencer make his long-awaited debut for TFC II, coming on in the 76th minute for Hundal.
As Edwards noted pre-match, they were eager to play spoilers with their own playoff hopes extinguished. That they did for Orlando, a positive result they can carry into their final weekend of the season.
TFC II will wrap up the 2016 campaign on the road, in Rochester against the Rhinos on September 24.
A handful of observations:
Shaan Hundal is an incredibly tenacious and active forward, tirelessly closing down defenders and chasing down balls he had no business hoping to win. That energy can be useful, such as when he outworked a defender in the corner and drove towards goal, but it also comes at a cost – he gave away a cheap foul with putting a shoulder into an out-of-options attacker, gifting Orlando a potentially troublesome free-kick.
Clement Simonin continued his return from injury, playing the entire ninety minutes on Sunday. He showed some intriguing moments of forward ability, thrusting into midfield to help spur an attack.
Wesley Charpie, who captained the side on the night, was impressive up the right-flank all match, showing a good engine and the ability to either combine or get dangerous crosses into the area.
Skylar Thomas was back in the lineup, but Chris Mannella was nowhere to be seen. And it turns out that both Mitch Taintor and Boba Jobe were still suspended for the match following the fracas against Montreal. Taintor was serving the second of five matches, so his will carry over into next season, while Jobe served the second of three matches – he will miss out in Rochester as well.
Luca Uccello and Liam Fraser, who were inserted back into the starting eleven after Canada duty, were impressive. Uccello was lively, popping up everywhere, making things happen. While Fraser was the consumate deep-lying midfielder, mopping up opposition attacks and springing Toronto counters.
And finally, Quillan Roberts got his first taste of action in months. He will have wanted to do better on that goal, but came up big with a pair of game-saving plays when it mattered most to ensure his side closed out their home season with a victory.
OCB – Michael Cox 5’
TFC II – Shaan Hundal 28’
TFC II – Ricardo John 71’ (Raheem Edwards)
OCB – Tyler Turner 66’ (caution)
TFC II –Anthony Osorio 67’ (caution)
OCB – Michael Cox 75’ (caution)
OCB – Pedro Ribeiro 83’ (caution)
TFC II – Raheem Edwards 84’ (caution)
OCB – Zach Hayden 90’ (caution)
Toronto FC II – Quillan Roberts; Wesley Charpie©, Skylar Thomas, Clement Simonin, Triston Hodge (Anthony Osorio 45’); Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Brian James (Raheem Edwards 65’), Malik Johnson; Shaan Hundal (Ben Spencer 76’), Ricardo John
Substitutes Not Used: Angelo Cavalluzzo, Klaidi Cela, Martin Davis, Aidan Daniels
Orlando City B – Mark Ridgers; Tyler Turner, Zach Hayden, Kyle McFadden, Craig Nitti (Conor Donovan 73’); Hadjt Barry (Keegan Smith 48’), Devron Garcia (Pedro Ribeiro 61’), Alejandro Garcia (Johnny Mendoza 45’), Andrew Ribeiro©, Pierre Da Silva; Michael Cox
Substitutes Not Used: Jake Fencason
Attendance: 1,300 – Sellout
NB: TFC II set club records for total points (26) and wins (7) in a season.
Post-Match Quote Sheet:
JASON BENT – HEAD COACH, TORONTO FC II
Jason, this win snaps a 5 game losing streak, talk about tonight's game?
I thought we showed excellent energy right from the beginning, unfortunately we went down a goal but it is something that we can fix. All in all the players’ intensity and appetite to perform some of their passing and moving was everything we could expect. We scored a couple good goals the strikers were a handful for their back line. The first two Ricardo as well as Shaan and then when Ben Spencer came on he also put himself about. So pleased for the overall group, you know we had a difficult month in August but it was nice to end our home stand with positive vibes.
Quillan Roberts made the start for you guys and hasn’t been down here for a while, talk about his play?
I thought Q was solid tonight for not been playing a game for over 2 and a half months maybe, that's not easy so he made a couple of big saves towards the end of the game to preserve the win and I thought he managed the game quite well. He came for some crosses so I’m pleased for him.
Raheem Edwards came in the 2nd half and made his presence known right away, thoughts on his play tonight?
Yeah he had a brief cameo appearance but we asked our subs to give something off the bench and to give a bit of intensity and something different, pretty much created something out of nothing and Ricardo was brave at the first post and I think overall we deserved 3 points tonight.
RICARDO JOHN – FORWARD, TORONTO FC II
Your third goal, and your third with you head, break down that goal for us.
Wonderful play by Raheem, great defending so I had to be in the right spot for when he put in the cross, and I got my head on it. Why use your feet when you can use your head.
You and Shaan Hundal were connecting from the start of the game, talk to us about your dynamic together.
It was great working with him in the 4-4-2 this past week at practice. Glad we could produce it on the field and get the win.
How important was it to ending this season at home with a win?
It was great. We had to reward the fans, it's been a long tough season, and the last few games have been difficult at home. Glad we could get the win for the fans.
BEN SPENCER – FORWARD, TORONTO FC II
Ben you made your debut since singing your USL contract, how is it feel getting out there today?
A lot of different emotions mostly excited. Just really happy to be back out playing after being out for so long. It was a rewarding experience.
You were able to be a part of the win especially before you guys goes to your last game in Rochester next week, what do you want to see your role or position be for this team?
Good to get a win, especially at home for all the fans. My role, I want to be a target for a linkup play, be an option for the team to play through and relieve pressure. Score some goals hopefully.
This win snapped a 5 game losing streak, how important is carrying this momentum over to next week?
It’s always good to get out of a streak of losses, definitely important to give us confident going into it. The week off and then a hard week of training and then we play so I think it will be good.
You feel physically fine, felt strong out there?
Yeah! Felt good, finally good. Yes really good!