Toronto FC II got their home schedule underway with a solid 0-0 result on Friday night against the Rochester Rhinos at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.
The starting lineup offered up a few surprises as both recent Caribbean additions, Aikim Andrews and Jelani Peters, were inserted in the eleven. Tsubasa Endoh, who provided that late spark in Orlando was back in the side, while Oyvind Alseth moved into the right-side of the midfield three, though Endoh and Alseth would swap on occasion.
Peters introduced himself to the TFC faithful braving the frigid conditions with a thumping challenge just three minutes into the affair. The Trinidadian is a big boy, and fears not throwing himself about. He was repaid for his physicality a minute later when Rochester's Jordan Dover thundered into a challenge having let the ball skip away from him, leaving Peters shaking off the sting of a kick to the shins.
The first chance of the match fell Toronto's way in the 10th minute after Andrews won a foul in a dangerous area on the right-side of the box. Endoh sent in the delivery, which was met by Brandon Aubrey. His header and follow-up were blocked, falling to Peters, who sent a shot towards goal that was deflected out for a corner.
Ben Spencer rose up to met the ensuing Endoh service, but his flicked header sailed just wide of the far-post.
Mitch Taintor was then called upon at the back for a pair of key interventions. He got in a vital clearance in the 14th minute when Ryan James sought to find Jalen Brown with a pull-back and then, five minutes later, came up with a huge block to deny James an attempt on goal.
Andrews exhibited his pace and power with a strong run up the right-side in the 24th minute, but could not find a path to goal, kicking the piles of snow in frustration when the chance fizzled.
Arguably, TFC's best look of the opening frame came from a turnover in the 34th minute. Wal Fall, the big Rochester midfielder, lost the ball, allowing Malik Johnson to nip in and spring a counter. He threaded a ball to Andrews, but the newcomer could neither get off or shot, nor lay off a return ball as the Rhinos defenders swarmed.
Rochester should have taken a lead into half-time come the 44th minute when a Kenardo Forbes free-kick from the right was swung into a dangerous area. Darius Madison got away from his marker and got his head on the ball, but the contact was poor, drifting harmless wide.
TFC II made a pair of substitutes to start the second half, with Brandon Onkony and Sergio Camargo coming on for Taintor and Johnson. Both were likely made in consideration of fitness, with Taintor playing just his second match after suspension and Camargo working back from a preseason hip problem. Brian James took up the captain's armband with Taintor coming off.
Camargo was a bright spark throughout the second stanza, nearly making immediate impact in the 46th minute when his quick, snap shot from the top of the box required a save from Tomas Gomez, Rochester's keeper – it may well have been the first shot on goal from either side.
Both Andrews and Peters would have chances, Andrews making space for a shot from range that hooked well wide and Peters getting on the end of an Endoh corner without making proper purchase to direct on target.
Come the 52nd minute Spencer linked up with Ryan Telfer, his erstwhile striker partner playing in the left wing-back slot for a good chance. Spencer played a ball down the right for Telfer, who in turn sent a low ball to the near-post for the streaking Andrews, only for the keeper Gomez to read the intent, interrupting the service.
Camargo again nearly found the breakthrough in the 61st minute when he surged into the area, only for the keeper to rush off his line, closing down the chance.
Spencer then found a chance for a drive in the 72nd minute with a quick attempt from the corner of the area, but Gomez in goal was equal to the effort.
Despite the disparity in quality chances, it was not all one way pressure.
A Joe Farrell header from a corner kick required clearance at the back-post from Alseth to prevent it crossing the line, while the highlight of the night was a stunning save from Angelo Cavalluzzo in the 82nd minute.
A free-kick was whipped into the mix from the left through a crowd, making its way to Fall at the back-post. He shirked some pressure to get off a shot with the net gaping, only for Cavalluzzo to appear from nowhere to make a fine sliding block-save.
In keeping with recent injury woes, Alseth was forced off between the Rochester chances, cradling his right forearm in his jersey after an awkward landing. It wasn't entirely clear what happened – he appeared to land on his left arm, not the right – and news on the potential injury will emerge in the coming week. Jordan McCrary came on for the injured Alseth in the 80th minute.
With the clock ticking down, both sides went in search of the winner, the match opening up into an end-to-end affair.
Andrew called for a handball when his shot was blocked in the area, but it would have been harsh and was waived away. Spencer was sprung on the counter, only for the quick recovery of the Rhinos defense to snuff out the possibilities.
Peters made another contribution to the night, getting a necessary header on a troublesome Rochester cross in stoppage-time – he was named Man of the Match for his efforts. While Telfer drove into the area from his right-sided slot and ripped a right-footer just wide of the post in virtually the last action of the match.
After three road matches to start the season, TFC II would have liked to get their home debut off to a winning start, but given the disappointing nature of the Florida road trip and the compressed schedule they have endured, a point will do nicely.
A full replay of the match is archived on YouTube; all told, it was a rather entertaining 0-0 contest.
The Young Reds now have a few weeks off, to regroup, assess, rest up, and learn the lessons of the opening two weeks before returning to the pitch on April 22nd, the first of another series of three on the road.
It looks to be a good one too, as the side will travel up to Ottawa for the first-ever USL Battle of Ontario against the Ottawa Fury, who made the switch from NASL to USL this season. Should be a tasty one.
WTR will have further coverage of this opening phase of the season over the coming weeks.
RCH – Brandon Beresford 55’(caution)
TFC II – Ben Spencer 80’ (caution)
RCH – Wal Fall 90’ + 2’ (caution)
Toronto FC II (W-D-L): 1-1-2 4pts.
Rochester Rhinos (W-D-L): 1-1-1 5pts.
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Mitchell Taintor © (Brandon Onkony 45’), Brandon Aubrey, Jelani Peters; Oyvind Alseth (Jordan McCrary 80’), Tsubasa Endoh, Brian James, Malik Johnson (Sergio Camargo 45’), Ryan Telfer; Ben Spencer, Aikim Andrews
Substitutes Not Used: Brogan Engbers, Anthony Osorio, Luca Uccello, Ricardo John
Rochester Rhinos – Tomas Gomez; Joe Farrell, Ryan Felix, Jordan Dover, Ryan James, Bradley Kamdem Fewo; Wal Fall, Kenardo Forbes, Jalen Brown (Mike Garzi 62’), Brandon Beresford (Rayane Boukemia 75’); Darius Madison (Jochen Graf 68’)
Substitutes Not Used: Dan Lynd, Sergio Campbell, Todd Pratzner, Ray Lee
|Toronto FC II||Rochester Rhinos|
|Toronto FC II||Rochester Rhinos|
|Shots – 12||Shots – 12|
|Shots on Target – 3||Shots on Target – 2|
|Blocked Shots – 4||Blocked Shots – 4|
|Possession – 46%||Possession – 54%|