Toronto FC II lost a second-straight match with a 1-0 defeat to Bethlehem Steel on Saturday evening at BMO Field, ruining what would have otherwise been a rather jubilant doubleheader.
After a dour first half, the Toronto FC-Minnesota United match sprung to life in the second, resulting in a 3-2 win for the first team. With TFC II given the platform of a match at the big stadium, expectations were high that the side would be able to find their second win of the season.
Jason Bent made a few changes to his starting XI. Ben Spencer and Tsubasa Endoh were reinserted in the lineup, as was Ashtone Morgan, making his debut after a long injury layoff. The back line remained intact, while Angelo Cavalluzzo was between the pipes once more. Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Jordan McCrary and Aikim Andrews also maintained their spots.
With a solid crowd in good spirits despite a quick rainfall, TFC II looked to put home field advantage to use with a bright start. Spencer had an early tester from range after an Andrews set up, but it was easily dealt with by Steel keeper Jake McGuire.
Any hopes of a straightforward match came crumbling down in the eighth minute when Mitch Taintor was whistled for a foul in the area, granting Steel a penalty kick.
Taintor appeared to clip the heels of Marcus Epps as he bore down on goal, but the trouble began with the wide attacker was allowed to get behind Taintor and the neat ball from Cory Burke put TFC under pressure.
Burke would take the spot kick, placing a low right-footer to the keeper's left with Cavalluzzo sent diving in the opposition direction to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Undeterred, TFC II would spend the rest of the half in search of a route back into the match.
In the 13th minute a well-shaped cross from Morgan was met by Spencer and directed towards goal, but it was easily held. Two minutes later a firm strike from Andrews was blocked and covered by McGuire after the Trinidadian initiated the move by playing wide to McCrary before receiving a return ball.
Bethlehem would be cautious in attack with the lead, but still found the occasional moment to go forward. Chris Nanco, who got the start in his hometown, surged up the left side in the 20th minute only to see his weak shot easily caught by Cavalluzzo.
Two more looks would come Andrews’ way in a lively opening 45 for the attacker. Some good work up the right from Endoh resulted in a pull-back to Andrews at the top of the box, but a timely intervention from Christopher Wingate nicked the ball away as the attacker prepared to strike. Two minutes later, in the 22nd minute, another pull-back from the right, this one via McCrary, was whiffed on by Andrews. A good chance, wasted.
With Bethlehem content to protect what they had for the most part, TFC II had the majority of possession throughout the opening frame but were unable to create many clear-cut chances. Their plight was not aided by the choppy nature of the match, with lots of annoying fouls preventing the build of any sort of rhythm.
Bethlehem would see their lead into the half-time break.
Toronto made one - likely predetermined - change at the half, with Ryan Telfer replacing Morgan at left wing-back. And with the crowd cheering them on as they attacked the south end, TFC II were eager to draw level with Bethlehem.
Their first real chance of the half would be indicative of how the rest of the night would go: Endoh played McCrary into space down the right, he cut infield to open up the angle, but both his attempts – first a cross, then a shot - were blocked by the swarming defence of Bethlehem.
Toronto would end the night with some 22 shots, but only seven would test the goalkeeper.
That said, TFC II did get three really good looks, the first of which came in the 52nd minute when Uccello was played clear on goal by Spencer. Good effort from Andrews in the centre circle saw him challenge two defenders for an aerial ball, pouncing on the proceeds of his work and finding Spencer who, in turn, deftly picked out the run of Uccello off the shoulder of the last man.
Under pressure, Uccello had to dig the ball out of his feet, somewhat rushing his left-footer, which resulted in it sailing off target.
The second such look would come in the 65th minute when Uccello played provider, flinging a ball into the area in an attempt to pick out Shaan Hundal, who replaced Andrews in the 59th minute after an awkward collision left him nursing his wrist. Hundal was unable to get on the end of it, but a poor touch from the Bethlehem defender fell kindly to Spencer near the penalty spot for a free look at goal. Spencer snatched at the right-footed attempt, however, sending a bouncing shot wide of the left post with the net gaping.
There were a series of half-chances for TFC: Endoh whipped a ball through the area that went untouched for the most part (Spencer was irate in calling for a handball when it was eventually dealt with by Bethlehem); an Uccello rip from distance went agonizingly wide of the right post; and Spencer turned on a defender, allowing a Fraser ball to run across him and down the right side of the area, but his shot to the short side could only find the outside netting.
Toronto would make their final substitution come the 71st minute when Taintor appeared to struggle with a muscle issue – he was replaced by Brandon Onkony. As with the TFC match before, the coach's hands were tied, denying him one last sub with which to impact the match. No doubt, he would have liked to get an extra attacker on with Bethlehem bunkering.
That final really good chance came in the 86th minute, when Endoh played Hundal into space on the right. The teenager did very well to cut inside onto his left foot, looking to shape a shot around the keeper and towards the far side of goal, but McGuire was equal to the challenge, stretching to push the attempt wide.
With the field virtually tilted in their direction, Bethlehem were largely cautious but when presented the opportunity, sought to seal the match and exploit Toronto pushing numbers forward. Their best such attempt came in the first minute of stoppage time when Seku Conneh was allowed to get forward thanks to some good work from Burke to burst through lines. But between the sublime defending of Onkony, taking away the shot to the far post, and Cavalluzzo being sharp, Conneh's effort to pick out the bottom corner was well-covered.
Both the disappointment of the players and the amount of energy they exerted was evident come the final whistle.
Bent's post-match comment pretty much says it all. “Very sad for my players; [they] put a lot of effort into that game,” he said. “We dominated it from start to finish, created the most chances... the ball is just not going in for us. That’s football sometimes. I can’t fault the players’ effort, or quality.
“They basically did everything we asked, and [more], except for putting the ball in the back of the net. We just have to keep doing things right and stay positive. I’m sure once we score one goal then the floodgates will open. It’s a tough one to take for sure.”
TFC II must rest and prepare for their next match as they face not only a quick turnaround and a troublesome opponent, but also a little bit of fixture congestion.
On Friday they will look to avenge that 4-0 February defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay when the Rowdies visit the Ontario Soccer Centre. The Richmond Kickers come to town for the first school day game next Wednesday at noon.
BET – Cory Burke 8’ (PK)
BET – Chris Nanco 66’ (Caution)
|Toronto FC II||Bethlehem Steel FC|
|Toronto FC II||Bethlehem Steel FC|
|Shots – 22||Shots – 10|
|Shots on Target – 7||Shots on Target – 4|
|Blocked Shots – 4||Blocked Shots – 3|
|Possession – 59.6%||Possession – 40.4%|
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 1-4-3, six points.
Bethlehem Steel (W-L-D): 3-4-0, nine points.
Toronto FC II: Angelo Cavalluzzo; Mitchell Taintor © ( Brandon Onkony 71’), Brandon Aubrey, Oyvind Alseth; Jordan McCrary, Tsubasa Endoh, Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Ashtone Morgan (Ryan Telfer 45’); Ben Spencer, Aikim Andrews (Shaan Hundal 59’)
Substitutes not used: Mark Pais, Brian James, Sergio Camargo.
Bethlehem Steel: Jake McGuire; Aaron Jones, Matthew Real (Matthew Mahoney 83’), Hugh Roberts, Mark McKenzie; James Chambers ©, Marcus Epps (Josh Heard 78’), Christopher Wingate, Cory Burke, Chris Nanco (Santi Moar 67’); Seku Conneh
Substitutes not used: Jahmali Waite, Yosef Samuel, Amoy Brown.