Days removed from a 2-0 loss in Rochester against the Rhinos, Toronto FC II is back at it on Saturday night at 7 p.m. with a massive Ontario derby where a crucial three points will be on the line.
Wednesday's defeat was a tough one to swallow. The side put behind their slow starts, taking the game to Rochester in the opening passages of play. But a red card to Brandon Onkony totally changed the match, reducing Toronto to 10 men and allowing the hosts to dictate the outcome.
That is now in the past. Ahead lies a tasty fixture, against their closest rivals, just up the road in the nation's capital: Ottawa Fury FC.
Both sides are eager for the third encounter of the season.
“We owe them one,” said Fury boss Paul Dalglish to ottawafuryfc.com in the build-up. “We’ve played well against them twice, but only one point to show for, so we are really motivated for this one. We’ve had a weekend off to get fresh. We’re coming into this game fully prepared and ready to take care of business.”
Dalglish can be heard discussing the match in more detail with TSN 1200 here.
Ricardo John is very much looking forward to it: “Big rivalry game, playing against Ottawa is always good. A tough opponent, but we go looking for the three points.”
“The boys are fired up,” continued John. “We take that into the game fight for ninety minutes. Come out with a result.”
Aidan Daniels concurred: “We're really excited. We played Ottawa twice, got decent results against them. We're excited to get the W.”
“Staying consistent, play a full 90-minute game, not in spurts,” said Daniels of the key to victory. “We're able, need to show it.”
Not only is pride on the line, but so too are points. With both sides currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture – Ottawa by three points and Toronto by 10 - a victory would be valuable with the season nearing its final stretch.
Ottawa enter the match off a lengthy break having last played against the Rochester Rhinos on July 15.
Jochen Graf put the Rhinos in front in the 15th minute, but Tucker Hume nabbed an equalizer in the 89th, courtesy a Carl Haworth assist, to salvage the point at home.
Currently sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points, the Fury will be looking to put their strong home form – they have only lost once in eight matches, drawing four – to good use. They are unbeaten in five at TD Place but are winless in their last four overall, including home draws against Rochester and New York Red Bulls II and road losses to TFC II and Louisville City FC.
Toronto knows what to expect from the Fury.
“A direct, physical game once again,” said Jason Bent after training on Friday. “They have got big presence up the front, in the back, tidy footballers in the middle of the park. I know they will be disappointed when we went there the first time, took a point from them. So they'll be up for the match for sure.”
“We have to make sure we're mentally right,” emphasized Bent. “Whatever players are getting opportunities to step in need step up, be counted for and do a job for the team. I expect a very physical game.”
Sito Seoane, one of those aforementioned “tidy footballers”, leads the side with four goals in 16 appearances, while a trio of players have contributed three goals apiece: Steevan Dos Santos in 13, Ryan Williams in 14 and Tucker Hume in 15.
TFC II are unbeaten through two matches against the Fury, having drawn the initial meeting in April and won the last encounter on the strength of Luca Uccello's wonder-strike at the start of July.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be streamed on YouTube or at tfc2.ca.
Toronto enter the match bottom of the Eastern Conference, two points behind the Richmond Kickers who have a game in hand. They will be without the services of Onkony, who was suspended following his red card on Wednesday, but Bent will have the rest of the squad at his disposal and the first teamers that have been with the side all year in Brandon Aubrey and Sergio Camargo.
Given the busy week, however, just what the starting lineup will look like remains to be seen.
TFC II have lost their last two matches, both on the road, since their win in the last meeting with Ottawa. Their road record leaves much to be desired, having lost their last six and gone winless through 10 dating back to the season opener in Phoenix. That said, recent performances have been encouraging. And on the horizon only four of their remaining 12 matches will be away from home.
TFC II's 29 goals against through 19 matches is not a bad mark for a side that struggled in that department last season. Take into account the occasional blowout, in fact, and it becomes downright impressive. Subtract the two heaviest defeats – the 6-1 to Charleston and the 4-0 to Tampa Bay – and the tally becomes a respectable 19 goals against through 17 matches.
Clearly, with just 10 goals for, their shortcoming this season has been at the other end of the field.
That, too, has been better in recent weeks. The side had a run of five matches with at least a goal come to an end in New York last Friday and found myriad chances both there and in Rochester.
Two players in particular have been getting themselves in good positions: forward Ricardo John and midfielder Aidan Daniels, who both saw themselves denied by the Rochester keeper on Wednesday.
Both are still awaiting their first strikes of the season.
John feels his is getting closer, but admitted it can be tough to be denied: “You hit a shot, you think it's going in, then the keeper makes a brilliant save. You can't put your head down, you've got to go again next play, try to get it into the back of the net. You just need one chance to go in, he has to get all.”
Daniels sympathizes: “It's tough to take, but that's the goalie's job. He's got to make those saves, keep the team in the game. It's frustrating.”
Despite the busy schedule and the disappointment, TFC II will be ready for whatever the match brings.
“It bodes well that the players can take some confidence from the previous games they've played,” noted Bent. “This game will be completely different: it's a derby. They should be well motivated, regardless if its the third game in eight days.”
Match Hashtag: #OTTvTOR