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Late Hundal strike salvages a point for TFC II

USL match recap & highlights as the Young Reds left it late on Wednesday night to draw Saint Louis FC 1-1

USL Photo - TFC II’s Hundal against Richmond
Shaan Hundal was the hero for TFC II as his late strike saves a point against Saint Louis
Martin Bazyl

Toronto FC II surged back, refusing to give in after conceding a first half goal, to find an equalizer in stoppage-time.

Christian Volesky put the visitors ahead in the 39th minute, but Shaan Hundal was on hand for a timely strike in the 93rd minute to earn Toronto a point against Preki's side.

Results elsewhere mean that TFC II are still a dozen points adrift of the final playoff spot in the East, but it also continued their good form at home, where they are unbeaten in four.

Playing on short rest, Jason Bent again went to his bench, replacing Mitch Taintor, who has been a rock for the side, with Brandon Aubrey, who slotted into the middle of the back-three between Brandon Onkony on the right and Ashtone Morgan on the left.

Uncharacteristically, that was the only change as first teamers Ben Spencer, Jordan Hamilton, and Tsubasa Endoh, as well as Morgan, remained with the side as Toronto looks to make the most of the seven remaining matches.

USL Photo - TFC II & Saint Louis FC brace for a midweek match at the Ontario Soccer Centre
A glorious night for some soccer
Martin Bazyl

Despite both sides having played on the weekend, the match got off to a good pace, a combination of the time of year and the cooler weather combining for some exciting action.

Saint Louis got the first few looks – Emir Alihodzic went over from a pull-back in the first three minutes and Ryan Telfer came up big to block a shot from Konrad Plewa two minutes later in the aftermath of a corner kick.

Plewa would pick up a booking in the 8th minute for hacking down Malik Johnson in transition, the intensity with both sides desperate to win was on full display.

Much like the match in Charlotte on the weekend, Toronto struggled to impose themselves on the early goings: crosses were over-hit, possession sporadic.

But their defensive play was on point: Aubrey was alert to come over and cover when Morgan slipped on the turn in pursuit of a long ball over his head and Brian James was equally so in cutting out a dangerous pass from Austin Ledbetter for Volesky in the 12th minute, springing a counter that fizzled out in the other direction.

Angelo Cavalluzzo too would have to be sharp come the 15th minute when Sebastian Dalgaard found space for a quick shot from the left of the arc. The TFC II keeper not only made the initial save, but also smothered the ball with Saint Louis buzzing.

Having weathered that storm, TFC II nearly took the initiative come the 24th minute after the forward movement from Telfer backed Saint Louis up. An Endoh ball to the near-post after Jordan McCrary slipped him down the outside won the Young Reds a corner kick in the 23rd minute.

Endoh's delivery was met by Morgan in the heart of the area, but he could not reprise his finish from the weekend, managing only to prod it towards goal where Spencer, back to goal, shielded it from defenders. Spotting his teammate, Spencer laid it off to Hamilton, who got off a quick shot bound for the back of the net, only for Ivan Mirkovic, the Saint Louis captain, to block it on the line.

So close.

Telfer and Endoh were again central to the action in the 29th minute when the wing-back played a ball in from the left. Endoh cut further inside before finding Johnson lurking with a bit of space at the top of the box. As he did against Orlando way back in April, Johnson looked to curl a right-footer to the far-side of goal, but could not get the required bend, leading to a relatively straight-forward save for Devala Gorrick in the SLFC goal.

The play even, the opening goal would come from the most incisive passage pulled off come the 39th minute.

Ledbetter got away from Endoh in midfield before spotting the diagonal run of Volesky across the face of the back-line. He slipped a ball down the right-side of the box for his teammate, who ripped a blistering right-footer high past a vulnerable Cavalluzzo.

The striker, funnily enough, had not scored since the last meeting between the sides in June.

TFC II looked to respond through Johnson, who drove up-field, as is his wont, after collecting a pass from Endoh, to unleash a wicked drive towards goal, but Gorrick was equal to the task.

The visitors would take their lead into the half, emerging intent on doing all they could to protect that precious advantage.

Slow starts have been a problem for TFC II of late, with the occasional exception, but whenever they do occur, one can be sure that come the second half, after Bent has whispered in their ears, it is equally true that they come out with the required response.

Two minutes in Telfer found himself in acres of space on the left after a crisp ball from Endoh – who was everywhere on the night, though hounded relentlessly by Saint Louis. The wing-back unleashed a dangerous left-footer from outside the box that was headed for the bottom far-corner, but it was read and parried by Gorrick.

USL Photo - Tsubasa Endoh turns away from pressure in midfield against Saint Louis FC
Endoh was a pest all night for Saint Louis, who sought to give him no time on the ball. They nearly managed it, losing him once in the stoppage-time - a costly error
Martin Bazyl

Saint Louis refused to make it easy, some sumptuous skill from Dalgaard on the touch-line saw him elude pressure, drive up-and-in-field before slipping a ball to Volesky, who was one-on-one with Morgan. Morgan did well to corral the attacker, forcing him wide into a poorer shooting position from where his right-footer went wide of the far-post.

Hamilton again had a glorious look in the 50th minute, nearly reprising the connection that crafted the winner against Charlotte when McCrary picked him out at the near-post with a pull-back, but the striker could not pull the trigger, his timing off by a split-second.

Endoh and Spencer then looked to connect in the 54th minute with a poked ball down the right-side of the box, but the pass was a tad heavy, skittering to the keeper, who was eager to collect.

Defense on the mind, Saint Louis would bring on fresh legs around the hour-mark, replacing the more attack-minded Dalgaard with defender-turned-midfielder Wes Charpie, who played for TFC II last season.

Bent went to his bench in turn in the 64th minute, a polar-opposite of the Saint Louis change, swapping defender Onkony for the more offensive-minded Oyvind Alseth. The back-three of TFC II was Morgan and Alseth, either side of Aubrey, the only true defender on the pitch in Red.

Despite Toronto bossing possession, few solid chances materialized.

Bent made his second change in the 79th minute, freshening up the attack by replacing Johnson with Aidan Daniels.

Seconds later McCrary would see yellow, apparently for repeated infractions, while Spencer had a look at goal from distance, but could only watch as it rose well-over in the 86th minute.

Hamilton too had a look from range, testing Gorrick with a low drive after a neat layoff-header from Spencer on the end of a Morgan long-ball in the 88th minute. That would be Spencer's final act, replaced by Hundal in the 89th minute with the clock ticking – Bent's final sub.

An 89th minute corner gave signs that Saint Louis' were fraying. An Endoh delivery caused some trouble and James' drive from the spilled ball was blocked on the line – Mirkovic again – but a whistle spared potential blushes, on Hamilton for challenging the keeper in the air on the initial delivery.

Still, the cracks were evident.

In the first minute of stoppage-time McCrary rounded the corner on the right to whip a ball in; Telfer, at the back-post, arrived a fraction late and could not get the needed touch toward goal with a defender in his way.

USL Photo - The Ultras Rosso supporter’s group cheering on TFC II for the full 90 minutes against Saint Louis FC
The Ultras Rosso brought it once more, cheering on TFC II to a late draw against Saint Louis on Wednesday
Martin Bazyl

But Toronto would not be denied come the 93rd minute from a sublime bit of play that put Saint Louis on their heels.

Alseth found Endoh wide and he blew past Ryan Howe with a savage cut to hang a ball up in the middle. Hamilton was in position, but could not control a bobbling ball, which fell kindly to Hundal. Making no mistake, the teenage forward blasted a left-footer past Gorrick for his second of the season.

With so much on the line, emotions nearly boiled over in the 94th minute when Telfer caught Mirkovic a little late in midfield. The Saint Louis captain took exception and got up sharply to get in Telfer's face, drawing a crowd. Both would see yellow for their actions.

An archive of the match is available at YouTube.

With the 1-1 draw, and results elsewhere, the twelve-point gap between TFC II and the post-season remains. A chance at three home points lost, the side would have to console themselves with the proof that once more, when they play their best, there is no team that can shut them down for long.

Six matches remain on the 2017 USL regular season for TFC II, up next a date with the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday.

Scoring Summary

STL – Christian Volesky 39’ (Austin Ledbetter)

TFC II – Shaan Hundal 90’ + 3’ (Jordan Hamilton)

Misconduct Summary

Konrad Plewa – 8’ (Caution)

Austin Ledbetter – 56’ (Caution)

Jordan McCrary – 80’ (Caution)

Ryan Telfer – 90’ + 4’ (Caution)

Ivan Mirkovic – 90’ + 4’ (Caution)

Team Stats

Toronto FC II Saint Louis FC
Toronto FC II Saint Louis FC
Shots – 13 Shots – 8
Shots on Target – 5 Shots on Target – 3
Blocked Shots – 4 Blocked Shots – 1
Possession – 55.1% Possession – 44.9%
August 30th USL/TFC PR

Lineups

Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Ashtone Morgan, Brandon Aubrey, Brandon Onkony (Oyvind Alseth 64’); Jordan McCrary, Brian James ©, Malik Johnson (Aidan Daniels 79’), Tsubasa Endoh, Ryan Telfer; Ben Spencer (Shaan Hundal 88’), Jordan Hamilton

Substitutes Not Used: Gianluca Catalano, Julian Dunn, Matthew Srbely, Dante Campbell

Saint Louis FC – Devala Gorrick; Austin Ledbetter, Konrad Plewa, Tony Walls, Ryan Howe; Sebastian Dalgaard( (Wesley Charpie 59’), Ivan Mirkovic©, Emir Alihodzic, Mats Bjurman; Christian Volesky (Tyler Feeley 76’), Daniel Jackson (Tyler David 59’)

Substitutes Not Used: Adam Grinwis, AJ Cochran, Milan Petosevic

Records:

Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 5-14-7 22pts.

Saint Louis FC (W-L-D): 8-11-6 30pts.