Toronto FC II dropped a third-straight match on Friday evening at the Ontario Soccer Centre as the Tampa Bay Rowdies proved too strong in the end, scoring a trio of unanswered goals after the home side took a first half lead.
As expected, Jason Bent trotted out a changed lineup once again: Jelani Peters, who it was announced had inked a USL deal that morning, rejoined the back-line on the left-side of the central three, swapping Mitch Taintor over to the right and shifting Oyvind Alseth into the right wing-back slot. Sergio Camargo took up Tsubasa Endoh's midfield position, while Shaan Hundal came in for Aikim Andrews up top alongside Ben Spencer.
After some technical difficulties, the match got underway and TFC II were lively from the jump.
The first sign of life came in the 9th minute when Luca Uccello was played down the right-channel by a long Liam Fraser pass. Uccello was forced wide under pressure from Damion Lowe and the chance fizzled out.
The next would come mere seconds later when, having dispatched a Tampa Bay move up the other way, TFC II would again get in behind.
Fraser was the catalyst once more, poking a long pass forward into the path of Ben Spencer's run, but Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens was alert, rushing off his line quickly to hurry the shot and make the save.
Third time would indeed prove the charm for Toronto when less than a minute later, Sergio Camargo clipped a ball over the rattled Tampa back-line for Uccello to collect. In all alone, Uccello calmly took his time, placing a composed finish past the keeper with his right-foot, giving his side an early lead and ending that interminable goal-less streak at 520 minutes.
When last the two sides met it was the Rowdies who hit quick with a flurry of attacks, bloodying the nose of TFC who were not able to overcome the deficit. With the tables turned, could Toronto do the same on their home turf? Or would the old conundrum, of scoring too early, prove haunting?
Tampa Bay would not drop their heads, finding their best look of the early goings two minutes later when Georgi Hristov whipped in a ball from the left that required the invention of Angelo Cavalluzzo, lest it fall to the head of a lurking Deshorn Brown.
But Toronto responded with another good move in the 16th minute when some excellent work from Alseth down the right-side of the area resulted in him curling an inviting ball towards the back-post. Unfortunately, nobody was there to meet it.
The Rowdies had their best chance of the first half in the 21st when a Hristov ball deceived Peters with its odd bounce off the turf and allowed Brown in behind the defender, clear in on goal. But the forward snatched at the chance, dragging a right-footer woefully wide of the left-post with the net looming large.
Despite the scare, Toronto's willingness to get forward was evident throughout and they had two more chances to widen their lead before the half-hour mark.
The first came in the 26th minute when some good play from Hundal on the right ate up ground and backed up the defenders before his seeing-eye cross found Spencer on the left-side of the box. Spencer would rush his right-footer, going for power instead of placement, sending it high and off-frame – his frustration at not dispatching the look was evident.
Three minutes later a lovely cutting move saw TFC II progress the length of the pitch to again set up Spencer.
Deep in his own end, Peters wiggled out of pressure to sail a ball forward where Spencer knocked it down neatly for Hundal. The teenager twisted up the Rowdies defenders as he worked down the left, cutting back across the top of the box at the last minute in search of space for a shot. His efforts were blocked, but he recovered possession and found Spencer on the right-side of the area. But once more Spencer could not keep his attempt on target, looping it over the goal.
Brown would get in behind the Toronto back-line again in the 32nd minute from a Michael Nanchoff ball, offering a warning, but his half-volley on the bounce would sail high and wide.
With the clock disappearing from the stream, the exact timing of the following sequences are not available, but both sides would see penalty shouts waived away over the next ten minutes.
Hundal went down in the area under pressure from Luke Boden. The defender did get his hands on the shoulders of the attacker, but it was not enough to entice a whistle from the referee. At the other end, Hristov twisted away from Brandon Aubrey and took some contact from Alseth, but he too would not get the whistle he desired.
Toronto would have one final decent look before half-time, when a nice attack resulted in Uccello teeing up Camargo for a drive from range, but his shot was blocked.
Set on protecting their lead through the second half, TFC II would be forced into a change, with Brandon Onkony replacing Peters, who apparently aggravated a hamstring issue.
Tampa's first warning shot came in the 57th minute when Hristov made a troublesome diagonal run from left to right to get on the end of a Lowe long ball. His right-footed drive was well-parried by Cavalluzzo.
The Toronto keeper would be called upon again two minutes later coming up equally huge with a block-save on Darwin Jones' goal-ward redirection of a Luke Boden cross from the left.
TFC II would have another chance to pad their lead on the hour mark, when Ashtone Morgan worked up the left to send an inviting ball to the near-post for Spencer, but Pickens was again on hand to deny the big striker his goal.
Those numerous missed chances would prove costly in the final twenty-plus minutes for Toronto.
Morgan, who was on a prescribed minutes limit, would exit in the 61st minute, replaced by Ryan Telfer. Between the Peters injury and the Morgan time-limit, Bent's hands to impact the final stage of the match were severely tied.
Tampa Bay would get their equalizer in the 68th minute when Hristov played a ball down the left-side of the area for Jones, who was the visitor's best player in the second half. Telfer would stand off just a little, allowing him to send a ball to the near-post, where it missed the first man, but fell kindly to Joe Cole, who wasted no time in directing a first-time right-footer into the back of the net. Cole, experienced pro that he is, had seen the chance brewing, and backed away from his nearest mark, Aubrey, to create the space for him to act.
Onkony would come up with a huge tackle on Jones to deny him a break on goal, while Uccello got a much-needed clearance on a ball directed at goal by Lowe from a Tampa corner kick in the 72nd minute, but Toronto was clearly bending under pressure.
A handball call on Cole would deny Tampa the go-ahead in the 74th minute, and Bent would look to dampen the waves of attack by injecting the fresh legs of Brian James, who came on for Camargo in the 75th minute, but with the introduction of Martin Paterson in the 79th minute, the complexion of the game changed for good.
Seconds after coming on, Paterson got the final touch on a deep Nanchoff free-kick that was curled to the right-post. It was knocked down into the middle, apparently by Neill Collins, before Paterson directed it over the line from close range to give Tampa the lead.
Dismayed, Toronto would be beaten again two minutes later by Jones. Cole found him wide on the right and he cut in-field to get off a left-footer that took a deflection off a defender before looping into the top right-corner of goal past a stranded Cavalluzzo, who could only watch in horror as any hope of points dissolved before his eyes.
TFC II would have one final chance come the 86th minute when Telfer did very well down the left before pulling-back to Hundal on the edge of the six, but his left-footer would miss the goal.
Such wastefulness would be the story of the night for Toronto, who succumbed to the relentless pressure of an experienced side. Had they doubled the lead when given the chance in the first half, could the match had been killed off?
With the final whistle, the Rowdies would celebrate their come-from-behind 3-1 victory, extending their unbeaten run to four matches with a second win on the trot. The third-straight defeat for TFC would come with the silver-lining of snapping the goal-drought, but they will see it as a chance not taken.
The Young Reds must pick up their heads quickly, as they complete their home stand on Wednesday with a midday match against the Richmond Kickers, before hitting the road once more for a Saturday encounter with FC Cinncinati.
TFC II – Luca Uccello (Sergio Camargo) 10’
TBR – Joe Cole 68’
TBR –Martin Paterson 80’
TBR – Darwin Jones (Joe Cole) 82’
TFC II – Brandon Aubrey 45’ (Caution)
TBR – Marcel Schafer 58’ (Caution)
TFC II – Ben Spencer 62’ (Caution)
TBR – Neill Collins 63’ (Caution)
TFC II – Oyvind Alseth 83’ (Caution)
TBR – Michael Nanchoff 87’ (Caution)
|Toronto FC II||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
|Toronto FC II||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
|Shots – 8||Shots – 14|
|Shots on Target – 3||Shots on Target – 6|
|Blocked Shots – 2||Blocked Shots – 3|
|Possession – 39.0%||Possession – 61.0%|
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 1-5-3 6pts.
Tampa Bay Rowdies (W-L-D): 6-2-2 20pts.
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Mitchell Taintor ©, Brandon Aubrey, Jelani Peters (Brandon Onkony 45’); Oyvind Alseth, Sergio Camargo (Brian James 75’), Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Ashtone Morgan (Ryan Telfer 61’); Ben Spencer, Shaan Hundal
Substitutes Not Used: Mark Pais, Jordan McCrary, Luis Pereira, Aikim Andrews
Tampa Bay Rowdies –Matt Pickens, Darnell King, Damion Lowe, Neill Collins, Luke Boden; Justin Chavez (Michael Nanchoff 24’), Marcel Schafer, Darwin Jones, Joe Cole© (Martin Vingaard 87’), Georgi Hristov; Deshon Brown (Martin Paterson 79’)
Substitutes Not Used: Akira Fitzgerald, Kyle Porter, Tamika Mkandawire, Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell