Toronto FC II's positive start to the 2017 USL season suffered a setback on Saturday night as the team was humbled in Florida, falling 4-0 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
There were indications that the night would be less than kind just seconds in, as goalkeeper Mark Pais was forced to concede a corner kick near-immediately, when a back-pass was rushed, catching him off balance – it was that kind of night, where the little things that contribute to a side's flow were just not there.
Tampa would take the lead in the 12th minute through Damion Lowe, who rose up at the back-post to get on the end of a left-sided Michael Nanchoff cross from a recycled corner kick. TFC II defender Lars Eckenrode was sandwiched between a pair of attackers and was thus unable to get up for a proper aerial challenge allowing Lowe to direct his header past Pais.
Three minutes later it went from bad to worse when Neill Collins got in front of Eckenrode to direct his low header towards the low back-post from another Nanchoff delivery. Luca Uccello was manning the post to clear the threat, but in the process Eckenrode's left leg got caught under the weight of Collins, leaving the defender on the ground in obvious pain – he would be forced to exit the match, replaced by Brandon Onkony.
But before TFC II could make the swap, Tampa had doubled their lead through Georgi Hristov, when a well-threaded pass from Nanchoff found the Bulgarian striker behind the Toronto back-line, lifting a neat finish over Pais in the 20th minute.
And come the 22nd minute, the Rowdies would make it three goals in a ten-minute span, when the Reds were caught up-field, allowing Tampa a four-on-three break that ended in Marcel Schafer picking out Joe Cole in acres of space on the right-side of the box for an easy finish past a helpless Pais. The TFC keeper recovered position well, only to see the shot elude his desperate save attempt, sailing through his grasp.
The match settled down a little from there, though Nanchoff would hit the bar with a free-kick in the 34th minute and TFC II were satisfied to see out the half without any further damage in attempt to regroup for the second frame.
Oyvind Alseth replaced Jason Hernandez during half-time and TFC II looked to pressure Tampa in search of a route back through the opening ten minutes. Ben Spencer found himself in a good spot in the box thanks to an Anthony Osorio pass, but was unable to turn for a shot, the chance evaporating.
Brandon Aubrey nearly turned one if for the Reds from a Tsubasa Endoh free-kick, only for a foul to be called as both he and the Tampa keeper, Akira Fitzgerald, played the ball at the same time.
Having seen out that challenge, Tampa came back to life, forcing a pair of saves out of Pais, first from Cole who attempt to squeeze a wicked shot past the TFC keeper at the short-side and then another Nanchoff rip from distance. Pais was equal to the first and was fortunate Alseth was on hand in the second to clear a juicy rebound.
Toronto had one more hope to fight back into the match come the 66th minute, when Darnell King appeared to upend Spencer in the area, but the referee did not bite, waiving away any protestations.
Tampa would seal the result in the 70th minute when substitute Deshorn Brown, four minutes after his introduction, tucked in a goal-mouth ball at the back-side. Schafer played the ball in from the left, Hristov got the slightest of touches at the near-post, before Brown arrived to finish the job.
TFC made their final substitution, bringing on Sergio Camargo for Ryan Telfer in the 71st minute, and thought Camargo did his best to spark the attack – looking strong on the ball, winning fouls, and once firing a rocket of a blast from the top of the box that was blocked – it was Tampa who nearly added another in the 72nd when Hristov agonizingly missed a tap-in from yards when a ball in from Leo Fernandes on the left required just the slightest of touches to find the back of the net.
Endoh came closest to providing some consolation for TFC II in the 75th minute, when a Camargo cross from the right fell to him at the back-post, but his tight-angled shot was just wide of the far-post.
Tampa had a few more half-chances to pad the score-line, most notably in the final minute of play when Pais had to react quickly to a cross and Brown nearly blasted the follow-up in – he sent it wide – but mercifully, the four goals were all the Rowdies would find on the night.
Tampa Bay are now a perfect two wins from two on the season under Stuart Campbell and look to be an early contender in USL this season having made the move from NASL in the winter, while Jason Bent and TFC II lose their first game of the season and must regroup ahead of Tuesday's encounter with Orlando City B.
For those brave of heart and strong of constitution, an archive of the match is available on YouTube
TB – Lowe 12’ (Nanchoff)
TB – Hristov 20’ (Nanchoff)
TB – Cole 22’ (Schäfer)
TB – Brown 70’ (Hristov, Schäfer)
TB – Lowe 76’ (caution)
TFC II – Liam Fraser 79’ (caution)
Toronto FC II (W-D-L): 1-0-1 3pts.
Tampa Bay Rowdies (W-D-L): 2-0-0 6pts.
Toronto FC II – Mark Pais; Jason Hernandez (Oyvind Alseth 45’), Brandon Aubrey, Lars Eckenrode (Brandon Onkony 21’); Tsubasa Endoh, Brian James ©, Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Anthony Osorio; Ben Spencer, Ryan Telfer (Sergio Camargo 71’)
Substitutes Not Used: Angelo Cavalluzzo, Jordan McCrary, Ricardo John, Malik Johnson
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Fitzgerald; King, Boden, Lowe, Collins; Vingaard, Nanchoff (Jones 71’), Schäfer, Cole © (Brown 66’), Fernandes (Alex Morrell 81’); Hristov
Substitutes Not Used: Reynares, Porter, Chavez, Savage
|Toronto FC II||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
|Toronto FC II||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
|Shots – 7||Shots – 16|
|Shots on Target – 1||Shots on Target – 9|
|Blocked Shots – 3||Blocked Shots – 2|
|Possession – 39.3 %||Possession – 60.7 %|