Toronto FC II must regroup quickly and take stock after that humbling 4-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday ahead of Tuesday night's clash with Orlando City B as the USL season rolls on. The match kicks off at 7:30pm ET.
Unlike Tampa and Phoenix before them, Orlando will at least allow for a measure of familiarity – the sides met twice last season, splitting the matches with each winning at home.
Led by Anthony Pulis, the son of Stoke City boss Tony, Orlando are winless through two games so far. They lost 1-0 away to Tampa Bay on opening weekend before falling 3-1 at home to Louisville City last Thursday. They currently sit at the bottom of USL's Eastern Conference standings with zero points and a minus-three goal difference, though having had the weekend off they will be the fresher of the two sides.
For MLS watchers, there will be some familiar names on display.
Lewis Neal, formerly of D.C. United and the main club in Orlando and also with Stoke links, captains the side. Upon his release from Orlando City at the end of the 2015 season he was offered the chance to continue playing with B while also taking on academy coaching duties.
Defender Kevin Alston is one of nine season-long loans to the second club along with goalkeeper Earl Edwards, defenders Tommy Redding, Conor Donovan and Victor Giro (who prefers to be called PC, apparently), midfielders Richie Laryea, Danny Deakin, and Pierre da Silva and forward Hadji Barry. That’s a mix of a couple of veterans, players with extended first-team training stints and several high draft picks still developing, some of whom have seen minutes with the first team.
As with the first team, where Cyle Larin and Will Johnson ply their trade, there are a handful of Canadians in the Orlando City B squad.
The aforementioned Laryea, who like Larin is a Sigma FC product, spent his college years with the Akron Zips before getting drafted seventh overall in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. The 22-year-old is yet to feature for the first team and has not seen the pitch with OCB, either, this season.
Jordan Schweitzer, a 22-year-old dual Canadian and American national – Orlando's website still lists him as American - recently took part in the Aspire tournament with the Canadian Under-23s, alongside TFC's Jordan Hamilton.
Defender Zach Ellis-Hayden, a 25-year old out of Kitchener, Ontario, who was part of the K-W United FC side that hoisted the PDL Championship in 2015, is there too.
As is Michael Cox, a 24-year old forward out of Edmonton, Alberta, and a York University alum, who led the team in goals last season with 11 – good enough for a joint-sixth-place finish in the 2016 USL top scorers list. Cox is the only Canadian to have featured thus far in 2017 for OCB.
Held scoreless against the Rowdies in their season opener, OCB did find the back of the net against Louisville, albeit via a Tarek Morad own goal in the 42nd minute. Louisville scored two in the second half to add to the one they netted in the first in the 3-1 win.
The match will take place at the brand new Orlando City Stadium, where the first team also plays its matches, and can be viewed on YouTube (see the top of this article) or at TFC2.ca, as per usual. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30pm – never hurts to repeat – and be sure to follow along and hop in on the game thread here, so your faithful scribe need not feel as though he is yelling into a void.
Off the back of that difficult loss in Tampa, TFC II will have a few factors playing in their favour in this upcoming match.
First off, Orlando, being another of those directly MLS-affiliated sides, is much more closely aligned in age and experience with TFC II. There are no Shaun Wright-Phillips' or Joe Coles on this squad.
Many of the TFC II players pointed to a 2-1 win against the Baby Lions in last season's home finale as their best performance of the season and something upon which they could build. There is a confidence that familiarity can breed.
Cox grabbed the early opener for the visitors on that Sunday last September, but Shaan Hundal and Ricardo John responded either side of half-time for the victory.
As with the match in Tampa, Jason Hernandez and Sergio Camargo are with the TFC group, as is Tsubasa Endoh, who apparently never returned to TFC after the first loan.
Expect to see Hernandez get the start again, but do not be surprised if he is on a set number of minutes, which explains his half-time departure against Tampa.
Defender Mitch Taintor is available having served his suspension but Lars Eckenrode is set to miss out after suffering an injury early in Tampa Bay, the extent of which is as yet unclear.
In addition, it was announced on Monday that two more players would be joining the group. Forward Aikim Andrews, who was with the first team for a good portion of preseason, was inked to a USL contract, while fellow W Connection FC youngster Jelani Peters comes in on loan, adding some more T&T swagger to a side that already has Ryan Telfer's suave accent.
It is unlikely they will be available on Tuesday, as the old boilerplate 'added to the roster upon receipt of their work permits and visas' tag was present in the release.
Though the match in Tampa did not go as planned, expect to see TFC II trot out in the 3-5-2 system once more, with Brandon Onkony in place of the injured Eckenrode on the left side of the back three.
Whether Jason Bent will look to change up any other personnel, especially considering the tight scheduling, remains to be seen. This may be a good chance to get John or Hundal a first start up top in place of Ben Spencer or Telfer, while Jordan McCrary or Oyvind Alseth could take Endoh's right wing-back slot. Taintor could also start, or come on for Hernandez when the time comes.
Given the goalkeeping situation with the first team following Clint Irwin's hamstring injury on Friday against Sporting Kansas City, which will require Mark Pais to back up Alex Bono, seeing Angelo Cavalluzzo between the posts on Tuesday is not out of the realm of possibility.
UPDATE: Greg Vanney said on Monday that Pais had flown back to Toronto in preparation for TFC’s match against Atlanta United on Saturday and will thus be unavailable for TFC II on Tuesday and Friday, leaving Cavalluzzo as the most likely starter.
Tuesday's match, despite the short rest, will be a good opportunity to build into Friday's home opener at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan, where they will square off against the Rochester Rhinos at 7:30pm.
Match Hashtag: #ORLvTOR