Toronto FC II's lengthy shutout streak came to an end on Wednesday night with a 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Highmark Stadium.
The side were able to set a new club record in USL play – reaching 332 minutes without conceding – but as with their previous longest streak of 314 minutes, set in 2015, it was Pittsburgh who would put an end to the run.
Given the quick turnaround, Jason Bent made several changes to the starting eleven from the side that fought to a 0-0 draw in Louisville on the weekend. Ryan Telfer replaced Anthony Osorio at left-back, while Liam Fraser got the nod at the base of the midfield, bumping Sergio Camargo from the lineup. Up top Aikim Andrews replaced Jordan Hamilton as Shaan Hundal's strike partner.
Buoyed by recent good performances, Toronto looked the more lively of the two sides from the start. A nice attacking move up the left inside of two minutes allowed Telfer to charge towards goal, slipping a ball behind the defenders for Andrews, but a quick reaction from Pittsburgh keeper, Trey Mitchell, forced the Trinidadian attacker wide, out of a potential scoring position and the attack fizzled.
Hundal showed some tidy footwork in the area in the fourth minute, but was not able to find space to get off a shot. Jordan McCrary was able to have a go at goal in the 15th minute when the field opened up allowing him to cut in-field and drive towards goal, but his hopeful right-footer from distance skittered wide of the mark.
Pittsburgh, having seen out those half-threats, crafted a dangerous moment of their own moments later when Corey Hertzog got on the ball on the edge of the area in transition, twisting up Oyvind Alseth by first cutting in-field then shifting back to attempt a rather audacious left-footed lob, but it sailed off its mark.
Back in 2015 it was Kevin Kerr, who wore the armband for the Riverhounds on Wednesday, who ended the TFC shutout streak at Highmark. Even with history against them, it would take something special to get a ball past the red-hot Angelo Cavalluzzo in the TFC goal.
Pittsburgh came up with just such a moment in the 22nd minute when Brazilian midfielder, Victor Souto, got on the ball about 25 yards from goal. Kerr was involved in the build-up, playing in-field from the left to Marshall Hollingsworth, who in turn helped the ball on Souto.
The Brazilian, under pressure from Brian James, unleashed a right-footed blast that sailed perfectly into the top right-corner of the goal, past a helpless Cavalluzzo to break open the deadlock and dent TFC II's defensive supremacy.
That it was his first professional goal, after a youth career with Corinthians and college time with the Akron University Zips, only made the strike more worthy.
Unfortunately for Toronto, the goal came from Pittsburgh's first really decent, extended spell of possession.
Undeterred, Hundal nearly responded immediately, getting in behind the back-line to arrive onto a James through-ball, but he was quickly closed by an alert read from Ritchie Duffie, who spotted the danger and made an excellent defensive run to make up ground and shutdown the young striker.
TFC II were lucky to not go down by two come the 28th minute, leaning on Cavalluzzo to come up big with a save on Hollingsworth. Hertzog was played into space down the left, sending a low pass to the near-post for his sliding teammate. Hollingsworth got plenty of contact with his right-boot to steer it on goal, but Cavalluzzo got down quick and stayed big to make the blocking save.
And four minutes later Kerr himself nearly doubled Pittsburgh's advantage when a Hollingsworth ball found him with a clean look down the left-channel. He attempted to lash a right-footed, outside-of-the-boot drive into the goal, but it instead sliced wide of the frame.
Andrews would be on the end of Toronto's best look before the half-time whistle, but his right-footed crack from distance was batted away by the Pittsburgh net-minder.
As was discussed on the broadcast during the intermission, TFC were likely the better team through 45, but it was the Riverhounds, on the strength of Souto's gem, who had the lead.
When the two sides emerged for the second half there was a lull in the action before Pittsburgh began to apply further pressure.
In the 56th minute, Hollingsworth surged down the left-side of the pitch on the counter, working into the area before sending an inviting ball towards the six-yard box. Duffie was lurking, but it was dealt with easily enough by a combination of Mitch Taintor and Telfer.
Two minutes later Fraser would come up with a big defensive block, getting in front of a drive from half-time substitute Michael Green after a Hertzog layoff.
TFC made a pair of subs around the hour mark, with Aidan Daniels and Malik Johnson coming on for Hundal and Luca Uccello in the 57th and 61st minutes, respectively, but it was the Riverhounds who continued to get the better of the next ten minutes.
Kerr sent a troublesome free-kick into the area, where it was knocked down by the towering Joe Greenspace – Toronto would mop up the bouncing ball, while Scottish-born, German-bred midfielder would whip a corner into a dangerous spot, only for Cavalluzzo to collect coolly.
As they did on the weekend against Louisville, TFC II seemed to find a second, or third, wind in the final throes of the match.
McCrary won a dangerous free-kick with some excellent hustle in the 75th minute. James' ensuing delivery would flick off the head of Taintor, eventually falling to Johnson above the box, but his right-footed volley attempt was wide of the target.
Toronto would continue to ask questions of the Pittsburgh defenses as the match dwindled, though Hertzog drew another fine save out of Cavalluzzo with a dipping drive from ranging that required attending.
Come the 85th minute it was a ball in from Fraser that discomforted the Pittsburgh keeper Marshall, forcing him off his line for a desperate weak punch. That half-clearance fell right to Telfer, with time and space for a shot on the gaping net, but he slightly rushed his left-footed half-volley and it missed its mark, prompting the Price is Right Tuba to rattle the loudspeakers at Highmark – apparently, that is a thing they do.
Telfer would have a shot at coming back from such mockery in the 89th minute when Fraser played him in with a neat ball, but Jamal Jack was in place for the necessary block.
The big defender was immense in the final passages, on hand again to deny two final chances in stoppage-time: first when Telfer attempted to whip a low ball behind the Pittsburgh back-line – Jack lifted it straight up in the air, and then cutting out a cross from Dante Campbell, who replaced McCrary at right-back in the 82nd minute, that was bound for the head of Daniels, making a nice run into the area from midfield.
It was a first look this season at the 17-year old Campbell, although with only a little more than eight minutes there was little to be gleaned from his cameo, other than the fact that he hits a solid cross.
In the end, Souto's strike would be enough to earn the home side a second-straight result, condemning TFC to their first loss in four matches.
No doubt TFC II will be disappointed, both to lose and to see their clean-sheet streak come to an end, but there were plenty of positives to be had over the last two weeks.
The Young Reds now face another layoff, as their next match is not until May 13.
It has been an odd, stop-start beginning to the season. But with the match against Bethlehem Steel FC TFC II kick off a three-match home-stand before their season takes on a bit more of a home-away flow.
Of special note, that May 13 match will be part of a double header with the first team at BMO Field – TFC will play Minnesota United in the first game at 3 pm, while II are set to kickoff at 6 pm.
PIT - Victor Sovto 22’ (Marshall, Hollingsworth)
|Toronto FC II||Pittsburgh Riverhounds|
|Toronto FC II||Pittsburgh Riverhounds|
|Shots – 11||Shots – 11|
|Shots on Target – 2||Shots on Target – 4|
|Blocked Shots – 5||Blocked Shots – 4|
|Possession – 58.1%||Possession – 41.9%|
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 1-3-3 6pts.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (W-L-D): 3-3-2 11pts.
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Mitchell Taintor ©, Brandon Aubrey, Oyvind Alseth; Liam Fraser, Brian James, Luca Uccello (Malik Johnson 61’), Ryan Telfer, Jordan McCrary (Dante Campbell 82’); Aikim Andrews, Shaan Hundal (Aidan Daniels 57’)
Substitutes Not Used: Brogan Engbers, Brandon Onkony, Anthony Osorio, Sergio Camargo
Pittsburgh Riverhounds – Trey Mitchell; Ritchie Duffie, Joe Greenspen, Jamal Jack, Taylor Washington; Victor Sovto, Abuchi Obinwa (Michael Green 45’), Jack Thompson (Chevaugn Walsh 72’) (Nick Thompson 88’), Marshall Hollingsworth; Kevin Kerr ©, Corey Hertzog
Substitutes Not Used: Keasel Broome, Gale Agbossoumonde, Kenroy Howell, Ben Fitzpatrick