Toronto FC II dropped their first home match in two months on Saturday night, losing 1-0 to the Rochester Rhinos.
Jalen Brown scored the game-winner after just ten minutes, catching Toronto napping from a throw-in. Brandon Aubrey was inches away from a late equalizer that would have salvaged a point for the side deep in stoppage-time.
Jason Bent was once more forced into making several changes to his starting eleven, equal parts first teams players not being available and others ready to return from injury.
Aidan Daniels and Aikim Andrews were back in the starting lineup, two of those coming back from knocks, while Julian Dunn made his first start since picking up that red card against Bethlehem Steel FC mid-month. Oyvind Alseth got the start in the right wing-back position, while Brandon Onkony swapped over to his more natural left-sided centre-back spot, in place of Ashtone Morgan – opening up the right for Dunn.
Shaan Hundal was back up top, alongside Andrews, in place of Ben Spencer and Jordan Hamilton, who had started the last two.
In addition, two more players making their return saw time from the bench with Sergio Camargo back after his minor injury troubles and Lars Eckenrode, who broke his leg way back in the second match of the season against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, making his long awaited return.
As forecast in the preview by Ryan Telfer, Rochester did indeed come out of the gates like a shot, troubling Angelo Cavalluzzo in the Toronto goal inside the first minute. The keeper was alert, making an easy save on the header from a left-sided cross.
Pinned back, TFC II would be stunned come the 10th minute when a relatively harmless throw-in caused all sorts of trouble.
Local product Ryan James, playing for Rochester, got back on the ball near the right corner flag after taking the throw. He backed Telfer off, making just enough space to whip a ball to the near-post area. It was met there by Brown, his diagonal run passing through various markers to meet the delivery with a right-foot. The initial attempt caromed off the post, but Brown was alert to pounce on the rebound with the nearest defender, Aubrey, stunned by the rapid turn of events.
The right-footed finish eluded Cavalluzzo, giving the visitors an early lead.
Toronto would look to respond immediately, through Malik Johnson, but his off-camera effort was said to have gone just wide.
TFC II would suffer another blow come the 22nd minute when Andrews went down, feeling his hamstring. Injuries, and the subsequent premature burning of substitutions, have been a problem all season long – chalk up another in that column. He was replaced by Ricardo John a minute later.
Johnson was at the centre of another good Toronto move come the 26th minute, winning a free-kick after spinning past Kenardo Forbes having received a ball from Brian James, sporting the captain's armband in Mitch Taintor's continued absence.
Johnson was felled by Joe Farrell, allowing Daniels and Telfer to stand over the ensuing set-piece. Daniels would take with his right-boot, guiding it over the wall and bound for the left-side of goal, but it lacked the power to elude Gomez, who was able to get behind it and make the save.
Toronto would come closest to levelling in the 33rd minute when Hundal tore down the right-side of the Rochester box. He rounded Gomez in goal and sent the ball towards the unguarded cage, but Farrell had recovered sufficiently for a desperate block, appearing to land on the ball, prompting shouts for a handball and penalty kick that would go unheeded.
The hosts were lucky not to go down by two in the 34th minute, Cavalluzzo again the hero with an unbelievable save on a wicked shot from Ryan James.
The Mississauga-native cut in-field from the right, settling a bouncing ball to welly a left-footed frozen-rope towards the Toronto goal. Cavalluzzo timed his leap to perfection and got just enough to tip the floating bullet onto the crossbar.
Rochester's James then nearly set up another in the 41st minute, linking up again with Brown at the near-post from the right – the same duo that produced the opener, but his teammate's first-time touch went agonizingly wide.
Lead in tow into the break, Rochester would emerge and be forced into a change of their own. Raymond Lee was hobbled after a tangle with Alseth at the end of the first half; he would be replaced by Brandon Beresford when play resumed.
Forbes, back after suspension, looked to pad the lead in the 47th minute, whistling a low ball through the goal-mouth from the right. Whether it was a pass or a shot, only the player knows; regardless, it went untouched and out for a throw-in.
Warned, TFC II woke up, putting together some of their better stretches of the match.
Daniels did well to keep an attack alive, working out of traffic to find Hundal wide on the left. The striker was denied passage towards goal, but the loose ball fell to Telfer, who whipped a cross to the middle for John. Under pressure, the best he could do was force a contested header wide of the near-post.
Telfer and John nearly linked up to provide a breakthrough in the 50th minute, the wing-back playing a ball in to the striker. John's layoff to Brian James teed up a hammer-blow of a right-footer, but it was blocked before it could trouble Gomez in goal.
Wal Fall would go on a troublesome run in the 54th minute, rounding Cavalluzzo to the outside, but Dunn was alert to the action, tracking back to get in a vital sliding block to keep his side within a goal. Five minutes later Jochen Graf would surge forward, blowing past Aubrey to a long ball having turned on some afterburners, but he rushed his right-footed shot, leaving it too easy for Cavalluzzo to deny.
In between German-Rochester chances, Bent would make his second change of the night, replacing Johnson, who took a knock himself, with the fit-again Camargo.
Camaro made his presence known immediately, surging onto a pass from Alseth and down the right-side of the box, but his end-line cross was cut out. A corner all the reward for his effort.
Toronto's third change would come in the 68th minute, Eckenrode coming on for Onkony. It has been a long road back for the young man; it was good to see him back out there.
Rochester, who neither score, nor concede in excess, looked to lock down the match, making their final two subs to break up the flow as the final twenty minutes passed without major incident.
But TFC II are a side that seems to find more energy as the seconds tick down. Fall was forced into a rash shove on Camargo in the 92nd minute, receiving a yellow card for his efforts that will see him suspended for the next match due to caution accumulation.
And come the 93rd minute, not unlike Hundal's heroics against Saint Louis midweek, Toronto nearly founded the required moment.
A cross from Alseth on the right was mishandled by the Rochester keeper. Gomez spilled his attempted-collection right onto the lap of Aubrey, arriving at the back-post. But between the force of the cross, the goalkeepers' touch, and his own forward momentum, the centre-back could not direct it towards goal before it ran beyond the end-line.
The 10th minute goal would stand as the winner, Rochester taking the three points by a 1-0 score-line.
The loss will sting, of that there is no doubt. Not only did it snap a four-game unbeaten run at home that stretched back to July 8 against Ottawa Fury FC, but it also all but quashed remaining hopes of a playoff berth.
With a point, TFC II would have pulled level with Richmond and cut the gap between themselves and the playoff line to twelve points. Hardly the most promising of positions, but staving off mathematical impossibility for another time.
However, with the loss a home match is eaten up and the thirteen-point gap looms large.
Five matches remain on the season; fifteen points are there to be had. Much can happened between now and then.
ROC – Jalen Brown 10’
ROC – Wal Fall (Caution) 90’ + 2’
|Toronto FC II||Rochester Rhinos|
|Toronto FC II||Rochester Rhinos|
|Shots –5||Shots – 18|
|Shots on Target – 2||Shots on Target – 6|
|Blocked Shots – 1||Blocked Shots – 4|
|Possession – 50.9%||Possession – 49.1%|
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzzo; Brandon Onkony (Lars Eckenrode 68’), Brandon Aubrey, Julian Dunn; Oyvind Alseth, Aidan Daniels, Malik Johnson (Sergio Camargo 56’), Brian James©, Ryan Telfer; Aikim Andrews (Ricardo John 23’), Shaan Hundal
Substitutes Not Used: Mark Pais, Jordan McCrary, Luca Uccello
Charlotte Independence – Tomas Gomez; Joseph Farrell, Sergio Campbell, Ryan Felix, Ryan James; Raymond Lee (Brandon Beresford 45’), Wal Fall, Jalen Brown (Sofiane Tergou 82’), Kenardo Forbes©, Julian Buescher (Mike Garzi 76’); Jochen Graf
Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Morton, Todd Pratzner, Stefan Defregger, Darius Madison
Toronto FC II (W-L-D): 5-15-7 22pts.
Rochester Rhinos (W-L-D): 11-5-8 41pts.