Toronto FC II ended their losing streak but were unable to hold on for the victory at the death on Saturday night, drawing 1-1 against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.
With the first team on an international break, Jason Bent had a wealth of MLS talent at his disposal. In addition to the regulars – Brandon Aubrey, Oyvind Alseth, Sergio Camargo, and Mark Pais, the latter two of whom were on the bench – Jay Chapman, Tsubasa Endoh, Ben Spencer, and Ashtone Morgan were inserted into the starting XI, while Jordan Hamilton was available from the bench.
Given the players available and the need to get more numbers in attack, the side made a slight tweak to the formation, starting in more of a 3-4-3 with Brian James and Luis Pereira holding the middle of the park and Endoh and Chapman on either side of Spencer in attack - though both would drop into the midfield when out of possession and in the build-up.
TFC II also welcomed captain Mitch Taintor back into the fold in his right-sided centre-back's role, helping to ease the depletion of the back line with the injury bug having bitten hard.
Despite the reinforcements, it was Pittsburgh who would nab the first few chances of the match, playing Romeo Parkes in behind within the first minute only for Toronto to be spared blush by the offside flag. They issued another warning in the sixth minute when a Kevin Kerr ball from the left to the back post was just beyond the reach of the ever-dangerous Corey Hertzog.
Having survived that early flurry, TFC II settled into the match and began to take control, crafting looks of their own from both set pieces and the run of play.
In the 11th minute, an Endoh corner taken short to Chapman but then returned to Endoh found Spencer unmarked in the middle, but he was unable to make clean contact, getting caught under the flight of the ball and guiding his header over the bar.
The unfamiliarity of the attack would be a hurdle – Alseth drifted offside in anticipation of a Chapman ball cancelling out some good build up and Endoh latched onto a Chapman pull-back that may have better been left to the late arriving James – and Angelo Cavalluzzo, back between the posts, would be called upon to keep the match level in the 23rd minute with a huge leg save on Parkes after Marshall Hollingsworth had played him in on goal down the right-side of the box.
Endoh's delivery was again on point come the 25th minute, his service met by Chapman on the doorstep, but his downward header was straight at the keeper, Trey Mitchell, who made the save.
For every move Toronto offered, Pittsburgh would respond with their own: Hertzog looked to get on the end of right-sided Hollingsworth ball in the 26th minute with a near-post run, but Taintor did enough to put off the attacker and a horrendous giveaway a minute later saw Hertzog in alone on Cavalluzzo, but his left-footed blast from close range was mercifully over the bar. A ball back to his centre-back from James held up on the turf, allowing Hertzog to challenge; Aubrey attempted to lift it over the sliding boot but could not, gifting the Riverhounds a glorious look.
Endoh's service was again central in the 28th minute when his right-sided ball following another short-corner rearrange found Taintor at the back post. His powerful header caromed off the post, then appeared to catch the back of the Pittsburgh keeper, skittering along the goalmouth before being cleared off the line by Lalas Abubakar.
James was shown a yellow card in the 33rd minute for a late tackle on Parkes in midfield.
Toronto would continue to show glimpses of both real quality going forward and costly defensive miscues, imprecise play at both ends of the pitch proving a detriment to their aims.
Chapman was played in alone by a wonderful Endoh pass, the two linking up excellently and almost at will, as they did in Phoenix in the season opener, but a heavy touch from Chapman saw the chance dissipate. A turnover from Morgan allowed Hertzog yet another look at goal.
Just such a moment of inattention would nearly prove costly in the 42nd minute when Hollingsworth looked to split a pair of defender to race into the box and latch onto a long ball from Hertzog. The Riverhound went down under the pressure of Aubrey and Robert Boskovic, his teammates and coach imploring the referees for a foul, whether outside the box or a penalty, but their howls were waived away.
Under further review, there did not seem to be a ton of contact, perhaps a slight tangle of boots. But there was a lesson there in letting the action develop to that point; something that would prove costly later with the result in the balance.
The two sides would enter half-time level on zeroes, and after a quick break, as well as a little prayer from Pereira, Toronto would come out of the gates intent on getting their goal.
The side had not scored in three matches, and as has been remarked repeatedly, had only scored three goals through twelve matches on the season. Note the word 'had'.
A minute in, Hollingsworth would be whistled for a pull on Chapman, and Pereira, thinking quickly, would restart to Chapman, who found Spencer shading to the left side of the box. His low shot bound for the bottom left corner of goal required the keeper's intervention.
But again, from the ensuing corner, the lack of familiarity would reduce TFC's likelihood of scoring, as
Spencer and Boskovic got in each others ways in attempting to get on the end of Endoh's ball.
Still, there were clear signs of the good play that the side has preached. Some fine midfield machinations between Chapman and Endoh saw the former pick out the run of Alseth down the right and his delivery to the back post was inviting, but Morgan, well-covered, could not get up to get on the end. The rare wing-back to wing-back connection seen in the first team nearly coming to fruition for TFC II.
The much-desired goal would finally come 59th minute and it was the product that same team play. Taintor stepped up to support an attack, laying a ball down the right for Alseth, who cut a ball to the near post, where it was met by Endoh's run, darting in front of the nearest defender to drill a shot high into the Pittsburgh net.
Jordan Hamilton would come on for James in the 60th minute, the side reverting to their 3-5-2 (5-3-2, whatever) formation, but another near-self-inflicted error would gift Pittsburgh a chance to level. A mix-up between Taintor and Aubrey saw the two collide in attempt to clear a relatively harmless ball in from Parkes, allowing Ritchie Duffie to pounce yards from goal, but he finished like the full-back he is, sending his right-footer sailing high and wide.
Aubrey would see yellow in the 64th minute for a heavy challenge on Taylor Washington, as he lunged into a bouncing ball and caught the opponent.
And the Riverhounds would look to catch TFC II napping when an Endoh corner kick led to a counter in the 69th minute. Hollingsworth would spring Parkes down the left channel for a lengthy breakaway on Cavalluzzo, but the Toronto keeper rushed off his line and stayed big to make the crucial save and preserve the one-goal lead.
Alseth would be booked after the smoke cleared for his attempted intervention on Hollingsworth, the referee wisely playing advantage as the move developed.
Jordan McCrary would replace the Norwegian in the 72nd minute and Pittsburgh replaced a midfielder with an attacker, as Jack Thompson made way for Kenroy Howell a minute later.
Despite having the lead, TFC would not seek to protect it, instead looking to pad their advantage. And they nearly did in the 75th minute when Hamilton's left footer kissed the face of the bar after Chapman found his diagonal run from right to left, down the left side of the area. Hamilton lifted his shot over the keeper, but could not sneak it under the bar.
Hamilton would be booked for dissent in the 77th minute after a poor decision gave a throw-in to Pittsburgh.
Cavalluzzo would be called upon again in the 78th minute to make a necessary diving save when Howell found space for a shot from the top of the box and the tenacity of Pereira was in full display in the 81st minute when he worked hard to get back and put in a crucial block on a Parkes shot.
It was a wild closing ten minutes, the match opening up and both sides looking for the goal they needed to change the game. But the inability to add a second goal and Pittsburgh's unwillingness to go down quietly, as well as the aforementioned inability to snuff out danger before it evolved, would prove costly.
Pittsburgh would find their equalizer in the 87th minute when Parkes' right-footed free-kick would find the bottom-left corner of the goal. His low shot, after a pair of teammates overran the dead ball, would catch Cavalluzzo a touch slow to get to the well-placed strike.
Whereas the tangle of boots between Boskovic and Hollingsworth was not given at the end of the first half, the officials saw a similar amount of contact between Taintor and Parkes as reason for a foul – whether the incessant protests from the sidelines throughout the half, or the half-time protestations had any impact in the decision is difficult to say.
Regardless, Cavalluzzo could be seen cursing the sky after the equalizer found the back of the net.
Ryan Telfer would replace Morgan in the 88th minute.
Hertzog would demand a penalty kick a minute later when a stray boot from Aubrey seemed to impede his path to goal, but his cries would go unanswered – upon review it appeared there was very little, if any, contact.
Telfer would win a dangerous free-kick in the final minute of stoppage time, bravely putting his head to a ball as a defender rose a high boot precariously near his face, setting up a dramatic finish.
Endoh clipped a ball into the area, where Telfer directed the ball inward from the right. Aubrey would guide a header onto the crossbar and it would fall to Spencer on the doorstep, but he could not tuck it in from close range.
With that the final whistle would sound, the two sides each taking a point following the 1-1 draw.
Having ended their losing and goalless streaks, TFC II will look to carry that moment into their next match as they return to action midweek with another home date, this time against Orlando City B on Wednesday at noon.
TFC II – Tsubasa Endoh (Oyvind Alseth) 59’
PIT – Romeo Parkes 87’
TFC II – Brian James 33’ (Caution)
TFC II – Brandon Aubrey 64’ (Caution)
TFC II – Jordan Hamilton 77’ (Caution)
PIT – Kevin Kerr 85’ (Caution)
|Toronto FC II||Pittsburgh Riverhounds|
|Toronto FC II||Pittsburgh Riverhounds|
|Shots – 13||Shots – 15|
|Shots on Target – 3||Shots on Target – 6|
|Blocked Shots – 3||Blocked Shots – 3|
|Possession – 52.2%||Possession – 47.8%|
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 1-7-5 8pts.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (W-L-D): 4-5-4 16pts.
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Robert Boskovic, Brandon Aubrey, Mitchell Taintor ©; Ashtone Morgan (Ryan Telfer 88’), Luis Pereira, Brian James (Jordan Hamilton 60’), Oyvind Alseth (Jordan McCrary 72’), Tsubasa Endoh; Jay Chapman, Ben Spencer
Substitutes Not Used: Mark Pais, Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Sergio Camargo
Pittsburgh Riverhounds – Trey Mitchell; Taylor Washington, Jamal Jack, Lalas Abubakar, Ritchie duffie; Jack Thompson (Kenroy Howell 73’), Kevin Kerr ©, Stephen Ohai (90’ + 3’), Marshall Hollingsworth; Romeo Parkes, Corey Hertzog
Substitutes Not Used: Keasel Broome, Gale Agbossoumonde, Danny Earls, Chevaugh Walsh, Ben Fitzpatrick