It was a difficult night at the office for Toronto FC II, who lost 6-1 to the Charleston Battery at MUSC Health Stadium on Saturday.
Returning from a 10-day break and riding a two-match unbeaten run, more would have been expected by Jason Bent of his side, but instead they were humbled by the Eastern Conference-leading Battery.
Without the services of the first teamers who had pushed the group forward in recent weeks – Jordan Hamilton, Tsubasa Endoh, and Jay Chapman, to name a few – Bent stuck with the 3-4-3 formation tweak that has served the side well.
In fact, he made only two changes to the XI that beat Orlando City B, with Aikim Andrews inserted for Hamilton up top and Luca Uccello for Endoh on the right of the attacking three.
In a sign of what was to come, Charleston nearly opened the scoring inside the opening two minutes when Maikel Chang tore up the right before sending a ball into the box. Dante Marini's shot was blocked, but the rebound fell to Romario Williams, who looked to put a left-footer past Angelo Cavalluzzo in the Toronto goal. The keeper, however, was down quick to make the save.
Cavalluzzo would get caught on the ball by the pressure of Williams in the 10th minute, leading to a shot from Justin Portillo that was deflected out for a corner, leading to a spell of intense pressure, with several corner kicks and a long throw or two in quick succession attacking the TFC box.
But the Young Reds survived that spell and even managed to craft a few chances of their own as the 20th minute approached.
Captain Mitch Taintor got on the ball, spotted Sergio Camargo in a pocket of space and found him. Camargo then drove towards goal before putting a lovely pass into the path of Luca Uccello who had come inside with Andrews' run dragging the nearby centre-back out of position. Uccello looked to put his quick right-footer past Odisnel Cooper in the Charleston goal, but the Cuban keeper got a strong hand to the effort, pushing it wide.
Taintor himself would have a half-chance from the ensuing corner when the ball fell to him deep at the back-post – his shot was blocked by a crowd of players, but the best look would come that same minute when an Uccello ball from the right in the second phase picked out an unmarked Liam Fraser on the doorstep, but his free header went over the bar.
Charleston would retake the momentum, getting their goal in the 31st minute through Williams.
A Chang corner kick from the right was flung to the near post, where Williams escaped his marker, Ryan Telfer, to get a neat flick that helped the delivery on the far-side of goal.
Eleven minutes later, moments before the half-time whistle, another set-piece would see the Battery double their lead. A left-sided corner from Portillo was met at the near-post by the movement of Taylor Mueller, cushioning it into an inviting area near the penalty spot. Forrest Lasso, an imposing centre-back, reacted quickest, turning on the loose ball to drive it into the Toronto net.
The second goal, having wasted chances to take the lead themselves, was a gut-punch, especially coming when it did. A one-goal deficit at half-time for a side that struggles to score is one thing, but two is a different matter entirely.
Bent would make a change at the half, with Dante Campbell replacing McCrary at the right wing-back spot – whether it was preplanned, or McCrary suffered a knock is unclear.
Toronto would have a good chance in the 48th minute to get themselves back into the match when Andrews showed a burst of pace to get past Lasso and in on goal, but a heavy touch allowed the ball to run to the keeper.
In the 50th minute the earlier gut-punch would be compounded, when Williams got on the ball in a dangerous position from a Marini ball into the area. Brandon Aubrey would look to intervene, but succeeded in only banking a clearance off of Williams and past Cavalluzzo for Charleston's third.
Conceding goals that close to half-time, either side, is deadly for a side's morale.
Fraser would see yellow for a challenge in the 56th minute on Marini, harsh for a fair tackle, though the booking may have been more for his response that the play itself. And a minute later, from the second phase of the ensuing free-kick, the Battery would add their fourth.
Partially cleared, Marini found some space on the left, having won possession and fought away from two defenders, for a sumptuous left-footer that eluded Cavalluzzo to find the right-side of goal – the shot may have taken a deflection off the back of Taintor in his effort to block.
Ricardo John would replace Brian James on the hour mark and further TFC blushes would be delayed when Marini found Kotaro Higashi wide open in the middle, but his effort went wide of the left-post from close range.
TFC II would pull one back in the 65th minute through Camargo, who snuck in at the back-post to meet an inviting left-sided Telfer cross with a diving header past Cooper; keeping the goal-scoring streak alive, extending it to three straight matches.
But it was little consolation, as the Battery would add a fifth in the 71st minute through Marini, after Williams slipped him in down the left-side of the box for a low shot across the keeper.
Malik Johnson replaced Uccello in the 72nd minute, injecting some additional pace into a weary Toronto side on a steamy night – twice the match was stopped for hydration breaks, one in each half.
Despite the lop-sided scoreline, Toronto would not go down easily. John had a good look in the 76th minute from a Telfer pull-back to the top of the area, but leaning back, the Trinidadian striker's effort went over.
And John's penalty shout in the 84th minute for a handball after a sweeping TFC move up the left would be waved away.
Johnson would surge past Skylar Thomas, who entered against his old team in the 85th minute – a classy move by the Battery staff (a small gesture that is made far too infrequently), to get in a pull back, and later drove forward into the area only to have his shot blocked.
But Charleston would seal the night with their sixth goal in the 92nd minute when Chang went down atop the arc after a Telfer challenge. Portillo's right-footed free-kick would bend over the wall and tuck itself inside the left-post.
In many ways, this result, their worst defeat of the season, was exemplary of the year as a whole.
TFC II were not terrible. They could have done better to maintain possession, string a few passes together to relieve some pressure, and the set-piece defending will be an issue of focus this week in training, but the scoreline did not reflect the sum of the action.
Every little mistake was compounded and resulting in the ball finding the back of the net, whereas they were unable to capitalize on the chances that came their way. It can be a cruel game at times.
On a more positive note, were it not for the result, a rewatch of the archived version of the match would be most encouraged. The broadcast crew were fantastic, sticking largely to calling the play and adding a little bit of context when warranted, rather than just talking about random soccer-related topics at all times. They even let the game breathe a little when possible, letting the play on the field and the atmosphere take centre stage.
Unbeaten streak destroyed, TFC II will return home for a pair of matches over the coming week, first on Saturday July 1 against the Harrisburg City Islanders and then again on Saturday July 8 in a rematch of the Battle of Ontario against Ottawa Fury FC.
CHS – Romario Williams (Maikel Chang) 31’
CHS – Forrest Lasso (Taylor Mueller, Justin Portillo) 42’
CHS – Romario Williams 50’
CHS – Dante Marini 57’
TFC II – Sergio Camargo (Ryan Telfer) 65’
CHS – Dante Marini (Romario Williams) 71’
CHS – Justin Portillo 90’ + 2’
TFC II – Liam Fraser 56’ (Caution)
|Toronto FC II||Charleston Battery|
|Toronto FC II||Charleston Battery|
|Shots – 12||Shots – 23|
|Shots on Target – 4||Shots on Target – 11|
|Blocked Shots – 3||Blocked Shots – 4|
|Possession – 52.1%||Possession – 47.9%|
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 2-8-5 11pts.
Charleston Battery (W-L-D): 9-2-4 31pts.
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Mitchell Taintor©, Brandon Aubrey, Robert Boskovic; Jordan McCrary (Dante Campbell HT’), Liam Fraser, Brian James (Ricardo John 60’), Ryan Telfer; Luca Uccello (Malik Johnson 72’), Sergio Camargo Aikim Andrews
Substitutes Not Used: Mark Pais, Brandon Onkony, Aidan Daniels, Anthony Osorio
Charleston Battery – Odisnel Cooper; Quinton Griffith, O’Brian Woodbine, Taylor Mueller©, Forrest Lasso; Tah Anunga, Maikel Chang, Justin Portillo, Dante Marini (Skylar Thomas 85’); Romario Williams (Heviel Cordoves 75’), Kotaro Higashi (Ataulla Guerra 68’)
Substitutes Not Used: Joe Kuzminsky, Neveal Hackshaw, Jeffrey Obitey Otoo, Ricky Garbanzo