Toronto FC II suffered a fatal setback on Saturday night, their playoff aspirations dashed in controversial fashion as they lost 2-1 at home against NYRB II.
Jay Chapman put the side ahead in the 35th minute, but a pair of penalty kicks – both converted by Stefano Bonomo – before half-time overturned his strike. Jordan Hamilton saw red at the final whistle for his protestations at a further decision from the referee, or more succinctly, the lack thereof, that denied Toronto a penalty of their own in the closing stages of the match.
Jason Bent once more made changes to his starting eleven: Lars Eckenrode, who returned from a long injury layoff last match got the start on the left-side, replacing Brandon Onkony; Jordan McCrary returned to the right wing-back spot in place of Oyvind Alseth, and the availability of four first team players totally revamped the TFC II attack. Chapman, Hamilton, Tsubasa Endoh, and Ben Spencer were all back in the side.
Under the lights at BMO Field, the big stage, the opening throes of the match were tentative, with neither finding a clear breakthrough. New York were lively, but did not create much of substance, while Toronto gradually worked themselves into the game after seeing out a cautious initial ten minutes.
The first decent look came in the 14th minute when Endoh was able to work into space on the right following a throw-in, picking out Hamilton with a pull-back that drew a solid stop out of New York keeper, Evan Louro.
Five minutes later, Endoh was again at the middle of the action, sending Spencer in down the left-channel. His left-footer under pressure from Hassan Ndam skipped wide of the right-post.
Another ball from Endoh in the 20th minute found Chapman at the top of the box, but his one-time effort on a ball that bounced just before he struck, sailed well over the target.
Having developed a feel for each other and the Red Bulls, TFC II put together an excellent move in the 21st minute that saw Spencer check back and touch wide to McCrary, who then hit a low ball down the side of the box for Endoh. His cut-back was aimed at Chapman arriving into the box, but Ndam was alert to the threat, cutting it out.
With Toronto pressing forward, New York's threat on the counter was on full display in the ensuing seconds. A lightning-quick move up-field found Florian Valot in space on the right and his cross to the back-post found a wide open Junior Flemmings. Blushes were spared when his poor header went wide.
The next good look would fall the visitors way as well, with Angelo Cavalluzzo alert to push a Dan Metzger drive from the top of the box wide in the 29th minute. It was a vicious, dipping, skipping effort and the keeper did well to parry.
Metzger would see yellow two minutes later for dragging down Endoh on a TFC counter. And the opening goal would loom large with the match loosening up before half.
As with the earlier threat, it was a well-worked, sweeping passage of play that crafted the strike for Toronto.
Brian James, imperious in the midfield as usual, played up to Spencer with his back to goal. He quickly went wide left to Hamilton, who deftly played provider, spotting the run of Chapman, arriving at the back-post for a right-footed finish.
But as has so often been the case this season, a devastating twist of fate would lead to TFC II's undoing.
Having taken the lead, Toronto relaxed for a moment and New York pounced.
A sloppy square ball from Endoh, 30 yards from goal, was picked off by Valot, who surged into the area. Eckenrode was over to pressure, but not quite quickly enough, Valot getting goal-side by a hair. It was somewhat debatable whether enough contact was made to warrant the urgency with which the attacker hit the deck, but regardless the referee pointed to the spot, and the visitors had their equalizer a minute later: Bonomo converting the spot kick past Cavalluzzo in the 43rd minute.
Two minutes on, in the final minute of the half, Vincent Bezecourt took his turn to run at the Toronto back-line. He burst past Brandon Aubrey, prompting Eckenrode to thunder into a challenge, upending the player and getting only the slightest bit of the ball, inviting the referee to blow his whistle once more and point to the mark.
Bonomo again was clinical, beating Cavalluzzo to the exact same spot, the keeper's left, with his right-footer.
Hardly the ideal manner of closing out the opening 45 minutes.
Back for the second half, Eckenrode replaced by Onkony, Toronto signalled their intent to not go down without a fight a little over a minute in when Aubrey dumped Bonomo with a strong challenge. It was a tackle that contained a message: this will be anything but easy, although it did concede a potentially troublesome free-kick.
Valot's ensuing effort would clear the wall, but Cavalluzzo was quick to his right to push it around the post.
In need of an equalizer, Toronto would get on the front foot for the next ten minutes, crafting a series of half-chances: Spencer set up Hamilton at the near-post in the 49th minute, but he could not get enough on his shot to beat Louro; an Endoh ball to the back-post in the 52nd when unmet; another move begun by Endoh saw McCrary pick out Hamilton in the box, only for his shot to go wide of the top right-corner of goal in the 53rd minute and shortly thereafter some wonderful striking interplay between Spencer and Hamilton saw the former look to play in the latter, but Louro was quick off his line to snuff out the chance.
Julian Dunn would see yellow for a tug on the jersey in the 64th minute and Aubrey would be required to make a vital intervention on the goal-line in the 68th minute. A Flemmings ball through the goal-mouth was not headed in itself, but Aubrey's clearance prevented Bonomo from a simple tap-in at the back-post.
The ire at the two penalty kicks reached its pinnacle in the 69th minute when Toronto were denied a shout of their own. Another bit of quality interplay saw Spencer touch a McCrary ball in behind the back-line for the streaking Hamilton down the right-side of the box. Andrew Tinari was poorly positioned, but managed to thrust himself into the path of Hamilton, sending the striker sprawling.
Penalties are always a matter of interpretation, but in a match that saw the first one given, where Eckenrode committed nearly the exact same foul, the only difference being he went to ground, one would reasonably expect this to be called as well.
It was not.
Flemmings nearly padded the Red Bulls II lead in the 70th minute, cheekily attempting to dink a shot over the onrushing Cavalluzzo, but the TFC II keeper was alert to the danger, denying with a sliding block.
Come the 74th minute, space opened for Endoh to have a crack from range, catching all of the effort, drawing an excellent leaping save out of Louro, who pushed his right-footer out for a corner kick. On a night where Endoh was at the centre of everything, a goal would have been just desserts.
Bent would go to his bench for the second and final time in the 84th minute, replacing Endoh with Sergio Camargo, freshening up the attacking midfield in hope of crafting the leveller.
But it was New York who would have the best remaining chance, a Douglas Martinez' header that beat Cavalluzzo, only to kiss off the face of the bar in the 84th minute.
Frustrated with both the result and how it transpired, several Toronto players would simultaneous shake the official's hands and protest his decisions on the night. Afterwards, it was revealed that Hamilton was shown a red card for his persistence – he will be unavailable for at least the next match, if not more.
An archive of the match is available online, as per usual.
With the 2-1 loss, and results elsewhere, TFC II's scant hopes of a miraculous run to the playoffs were ended, the side eliminated from contention with fourteen points between them and the final berth; four matches remain on the season.
Up next is their final away day of the year, a Saturday clash with the Harrisburg City Islanders this weekend. And though the season is nearing its end, there is still plenty to play for: not only does TFC II have the chance to play spoilers to some of their upcoming opponents, but, as Bent said in the build-up, these young men are playing for their careers. No further motivation is required.
TFC II – Jay Chapman (Jordan Hamilton) 35’
NY – Stefano Bonomo (PK) 43’
NY – Stefano Bonomo (PK) 45’ +2’
NY – Dan Metzger (Caution) 31’
NY – Lars Eckenrode (Caution) 45’
TFC II – Julian Dunn (Caution) 64’
NY - David Najem (Caution) 90’ + 2’
|Toronto FC II||New York Red Bulls II|
|Toronto FC II||New York Red Bulls II|
|Shots – 15||Shots – 22|
|Shots on Target – 5||Shots on Target – 9|
|Blocked Shots – 2||Blocked Shots – 2|
|Possession – 46.0%||Possession – 54.0%|
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Julian Dunn, Brandon Aubrey, Lars Eckenrode (Brandon Onkony 45’); Jordan McCrary, Tsubasa Endoh (Sergio Camargo 84’), Jay Chapman, Brian James©, Ryan Telfer; Jordan Hamilton, Ben Spencer
Substitutes Not Used: Gianluca Catalano, Dante Campbell, Malik Johnson, Aidan Daniels, Shaan Hundal
New York Red Bulls II – Evan Louro, David Najem, Hassan Ndam, Jordan Scarlett, Noah Powder; Andrew Tinari, Dan Metzger©, Vincent Bezecourt (Arun Basuljevic 52’); Florian Valot, Junior Flemmings (Douglas Martinez 77’), Stefano Bonomo
Substitutes Not Used: Rafael Diaz, Tim Schmoll, Ethan Kutler, David Abidor, Zeiko Lewis
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 5-16-7 22pts.
New York Red Bulls II (W-L-D): 11-11-5 38pts.