Toronto FC II put an end to both their losing streak and defensive woes on Saturday night with a 1-0 win over Ottawa Fury FC at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.
Luca Uccello, scoring his third of the season and second in as many games, provided the tally, while Mark Pais came up equally huge at the other end to keep the clean sheet as TFC II leapfrogged the Richmond Kickers, moving out of the Eastern Conference basement with the massive three points.
With the first team on a Gold Cup break, Jason Bent was able to pluck a few players from the squad, inserting both Tsubasa Endoh and Ben Spencer into the eleven. Dante Campbell made a second-straight start at right wing-back, while Julian Dunn, who made his debut in a cameo last week against Harrisburg, got his first start, taking up the right centre-back spot with Mitch Taintor moving into the middle in place of Brandon Aubrey.
Given that the club had conceded ten goals in their last two matches, it was clear from the start that the game plan was to shore up the defensive aspects of their game. Toronto played conservatively in the opening half, though Ottawa did manage a few half-chances.
A series of corners and throw-ins around the ninth minute had TFC pinned in their end, but a big headed clearance from Campbell alleviated the danger momentarily. From the second phase, Jamar Dixon did manage to get past Liam Fraser down the right-side of the area, only for Taintor to come across and snuff out any trouble.
Carl Haworth was pesky in attack for the visiting Fury, playing a neat ball into the middle in the 12th minute – Andrae Campbell and Ryan Williams got in each other's ways to negate the chance – and again in the 22nd mintue when he surged into the area, only to run out of real estate before he could pose a question.
Toronto made a rare foray forward in the 25th minute thanks to some good work from the 16-year old Dunn. The defender, who will turn 17 next week, progressed towards the Ottawa box, dishing off to Brian James on the right, before heading to the near-post himself to nearly get on the end of the return ball, winning his side a corner for his efforts. Spencer was able to bring down Uccello's delivery, but could not get off a shot before being closed down by the defense.
Ottawa had the ball in the back of the net in the 28th minute through Steevan Dos Santos after he was poked through by Haworth, but the offside flag negated the strike.
TFC II would nearly craft a glorious chance of their own in the 33rd minute when Ryan Telfer, in what is fast becoming one of his trademark moves, overpowered Dixon, rounding the corner on the beleaguered defender, to pop a ball into the middle. Spencer was lurking, eager for a tap in, but the rushed delivery was behind him.
One of the more interesting developments was the battle between the two Campbells, as Ottawa's Andrae and Toronto's Dante went toe-to-toe for much of the match, at least until Andrae swapped to the other side. Both would see yellow for late tackles on the other, with Ottawa's coming first in the 36th and Toronto's later in the 61st minute.
With half-time approaching and the tendency to concede in that delicate time – both Harrisburg and Charleston before then had score either side of the break – there were a few nervous moments.
Toronto was nearly caught sleeping from a throw in the 38th minute when Haworth found Dos Santos, who played Campbell into space behind Dunn down the left. The cross found Gerardo Bruna in the middle, but his shot was blocked alertly by Fraser, who was fouled for his trouble, halting the threat.
Another series of set-pieces began in the 42nd minute when a Dos Santos header was deflected off target by Robert Boskovic.
Pais came up huge on the ensuing corner, getting down well to get a paw on a downward header from Ramon Martin Del Campo's header at the near-post from a right-sided delivery.
Less than a minute later the TFC II keeper was called upon again, this time to deny Dos Santos on a Bruna ball from the left. The big Cape Verde striker sought to put his header to the goalkeeper's right once more, but Pais was there once more to play spoiler.
Toronto would survive those scares and head into the locker rooms at half with the match level at zeros.
Ottawa would find a half-chance inside the first minute after the restart when Ryan Williams whistled a low ball through the goalmouth, but neither of the Fury attackers in the area could pounce, allowing Pais to collect.
That warning served to wake up TFC II, who worked their way into more of a rhythm through the next ten minutes. Telfer was hacked down by Williams, earning a very late foul call, and Dixon would do the same in the 57th minute and see yellow for his actions. With Endoh on the ball in a good attacking position, it may have been better if advantage had been played, but the referee was overeager to produce the booking.
Endoh's delivery from the ensuing free-kick was dealt with by Callum Irving in the Ottawa goal, and James would send a right-footed blast from distance off a half-cleared corner off target in the 59th minute, but Toronto were clearly looking for their chance to steal forward. Were it not for a necessary intervention from Shane McEleney, Endoh would have been in clear on goal in the 63rd minute from a long ball behind the Ottawa back-line.
The Fury, having parried, thrusted. Bruna played Campbell down the left and his ball into the middle was met by Dos Santos, but a timely intervention by Boskovic prevented the striker from getting clean contact on the cross.
A moment of miscommunication between Dunn and Pais nearly provided costly in the 65th minute when the young defender looked to shield Bruna from a slow-rolling ball that got caught up in the turf, allowing the midfielder to nip in with a dangerous touch. Pais, however, was there to make the block.
Disaster avoided, Bent brought on Jordan McCrary for Campbell, and Telfer made another of his ranging runs, getting off a shot that was managed by Irving.
Then came the goal.
A lightning counter from an Ottawa corner, James collected the ball on the left touch-line and lifted his head to spot a streaking Uccello down the right-channel. Picking out his run with a perfect cross-field ball, Uccello, under pressure from the speedy Campbell, surveyed the situation, pulled up his run and clipped a sweet right-footed chip, sailing it over the retreating Irving and into the welcoming net.
Pandemonium ensued with Uccello making a B-line to his friends and family along the chain-link fence, his teammates in hot pursuit. With three goals to his name, Uccello has equalled his tally from last season, having netted against Harrisburg last week and in a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay in May, a goal that ended a seven-game goal-less drought.
With a quarter of an hour plus stoppage-time still to go, there was much to be done to preserve the result.
Dos Santos nearly had a glorious chance to respond in the 76th minute when Dunn slipped in the area, but the teenager recovered to get a much-needed touch to nick it away from the striker. And Dos Santos would find the back of the net again a minute later, only for a shove on Fraser to negate the strike.
Both sides would make changes as the clock ticked: Ottawa would bring on Sito Seoane for Dixon in the 76th minute – a player who caused the first team much trouble in the Voyageurs Cup – and add further fresh legs in the 85th when the towering Tucker Hume and Sergio Manesio came on for Williams and Bruna. While Toronto replaced Spencer with Aikim Andrews in the 81st and Aidan Daniels on for Endoh, following a slow walk, in the 91st minute.
The Fury pushed forward with abandon and the ensuing ten minutes was a mixture of game management and all-out swarms in the Toronto box
Haworth was unable to get off a shot in the 84th minute when he got on the ball in the area and a minute later he sent a right-footer inches wide of the post after Dos Santos whiffed on a ball in. The offside flag went up upon the striker's act, so Haworth needn't feel too badly for his miss.
Mere seconds after his introduction, Daniels nearly burst through the Ottawa defenses, winning a corner for his efforts. When Toronto lost possession off a short corner, Telfer was booked for slowing up the restart by displacing the ball by a few yards as he retreated into position.
Come the 93rd minute, as he had at the end of the first half, Pais would come up huge to preserve the victory. Hume bodied Taintor away from a long ball at the edge of the box, making space for a low drive, but Pais was down quick, getting his hands to his left to push the right-footer wide.
Toronto would clean up the rebound, but another long ball into the box led to yet another almighty scramble in the final seconds.
That too was eventually cleared, only for Ottawa's Campbell to hack down Uccello as the final whistle was blown, earning his second yellow card and the concurrent red. Of note, Campbell was also sent off in the April encounter.
An archived version of the match can be viewed on YouTube – the second half in particular is worth it.
TFC II celebrated with a strong contingent of vocal supporters who made the trek up to Vaughan with the first team off. It was a hard-earned three points for the Young Reds, as they responded to a couple of tough defeats with a derby win over their closest rivals.
Toronto now has a break of nearly two weeks before a three-match road trip sees them travel to New York, Rochester, and Ottawa, for the third meeting between the two this season; should be tasty.
TFC II – Luca Uccello 73’ (Brian James)
TFC II – Dante Campbell 36’ (Caution)
OTT – Jamar Dixon 57’ (Caution)
OTT – Andrae Campbell 61’ (Caution)
TFC II – Ryan Telfer 90’ + 2’ (Caution)
OTT – Andrae Campbell 90’ + 5’ (Caution) (Ejection)
Toronto FC II – Mark Pais; Julian Dunn, Mitchell Taintor©, Robert Boskovic; Dante Campbell (Jordan McCrary 67’), Liam Fraser, Brian James, Tsubasa Endoh (Aidan Daniels 90’ + 1’), Ryan Telfer; Luca Uccello, Ben Spencer (Aikim Andrews 82’)
Substitutes Not Used: Angelo Cavalluzzo, Brandon Aubrey, Malik Johnson, Brandon Onkony
Ottawa Fury FC – Callum Irving; Andrae Campbell, Shane McEleney, Ramon Martin Del Campo, Eddie Edward; Lance Rozeboom©, Ryan Williams (Tucker Hume 85’), Gerardo Bruna (Sergio Manesio 85’), Jamar Dixon (Sito Seoane 76’); Carl Haworth, Steevan Dos Santos
Substitutes Not Used: Dayio Paulmin, Kyle Venter, Jonathan Barden, Adonijah Reid
|Toronto FC II||Ottawa Fury FC|
|Toronto FC II||Ottawa Fury FC|
|Shots – 3||Shots – 13|
|Shots on Target – 2||Shots on Target – 6|
|Blocked Shots – 0||Blocked Shots – 5|
|Possession – 49.3 %||Possession – 50.7 %|
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 3-9-5 14pts.
Ottawa Fury FC (W-L-D): 5-6-5 20pts.