Toronto FC II drew 2-2 against Nashville SC at First Tennessee Park in their penultimate match of the USL season on Tuesday night.
Matt LaGrassa and Alan Winn scored for the home side, who were looking to clinch a playoff-berth ahead of a final day clash with league-leading FC Cincinnati, but Jordan Perruzza and Jordan Hamilton responded in the waning stages to salvage the draw, thanks in large part to the ten-save performance from Caleb Patterson-Sewell, which included a penalty kick save in the opening half hour.
Head coach Michael Rabasca made a trio of changes from the side that lost 3-1 to Louisville City FC on Friday night at Lamport Stadium in the home finale.
Liam Fraser stepped into the middle of the pitch in place of the two-man shield of Noble Okello and Dante Campbell, while Jordan Hamilton joined Ayo Akinola up top. Jon Bakero took up the role fulfilled by Malik Johnson in midfield, alongside ever-presents Matt Srbely and Tsubasa Endoh.
The back-five – Patterson-Sewell in goal with Tim Kubel, Kyle Bjornethun, Robert Boskovic, and Ryan Telfer across the back-line from right to left – remained intact.
Intent on securing that playoff spot ahead of the final day, Nashville came out fast, but we unable to craft any good chances through the opening quarter of an hour. Toronto struggled with the speed of Winn, but managed to find the first good look of the game when Hamilton found Bakero at the edge of the area and he turned to fire a left-footer that whistled wide of the far-post from the right in the 17th minute.
Come the 21st minute, Winn’s speed would prove too much as he surged into the left-side of the box and went down after a slight touch from Boskovic. Patterson-Sewell let his displeasure with the decision be known and used all the delaying tactics in his arsenal to freeze out the taker, LaGrassa.
Nearly two minutes later, LaGrassa’s right-footed effort was sent to the goalkeeper’s right, but Patterson-Sewell read it well and got a good jump to make the glove save.
The two sides would exchange half-chances through the remaining twenty-plus minutes: Hamilton found a lane down the left-side of the box having turned his defender and whisked his effort just over the bar in the 28th minute; Patterson-Sewell would make another fine save on a Ropapa Mensah header from a Justin Davis cross in the 35th minute.
Winn’s speed would continue to devil, prompting Srbely to earn a yellow card for wrapping him up in the 34th minute before a pull-back from the speedster found Tucker Hume in dangerous spot in the 40th minute that was deflected wide by a sliding Bjornethun block.
The half would close with LaGrassa ripping a half-volley over the bar in stoppage-time.
News began to circulate that North Carolina FC had lost to Louisville, opening the door for Nashville to clinch with a win, but it was Toronto that had the first good look ten minutes into the second half when a tidy turn from Akinola allowed him to lay Hamilton down the left-side of the box before poking towards Kubel arriving in space on the right. His low drive would be deflected out for a corner kick.
At the other end, Nashville captain, Michael Reed, would rattle the bar from range in the 59th minute before a series of saves from Patterson-Sewell: denying a blast from Mensah after he surged down the right-side of the box and then pushing a low drive from LaGrassa at the arc wide of the post seconds later.
The home side would bring on Brandon Allen in the 62nd minute. A minute later he would be instrumental in creating the opening goal by driving down the left-side of the box before picking out LaGrassa with a pull-back that was side-footed into the yawning cage.
Allen himself would double Nashville’s lead in the 72nd minute when Winn worked down the left-side of the area before playing an inch-perfect ball to the back-post for Allen to touch in.
Rabasca would go to his bench a minute later, bringing on Perruzza for Akinola and two minutes later, the 17-year-old newcomer would pull one back for TFC II.
Endoh ripped a dipping, left-footer from range that troubled Matt Pickens in the Nashville goal and Perruzza was on hand to touch in the rebound with his left-foot – it was his second in as many appearances; all three of his cameos have been off the bench.
Luca Petrasso replaced Bakero in the 77th minute and Toronto watch see a free-kick bounce around dangerously in the Nashville box in 79th minute after Telfer ripped a low ball into the area. There were some shouts of handball, but the referee was not interested.
Okello would come on for Bjornethun in the 83rd minute, Rabasca’s third change, and a pair of first-teamers would combine to find the equalizer two minutes later.
Telfer found the space on the left to sail a ball towards the back-post where Hamilton got the jump on his marker to nod in his eighth goal of the season, drawing himself level with Endoh for the team-lead.
Point earned, it was far from secure as Patterson-Sewell was again called upon to make a series of saves to preserve the draw: he was incredibly alert to deny a Reed header from close range in the 87th minute and then got enough of a shot from Winn in the 89th minute to prevent it getting past him before getting yet another hand on a LaGrassa drive from range.
Patterson-Sewell would earn himself a booking in stoppage-time for time-wasting, using all of his veteran nous to steal a few seconds for his side.
All considered, the draw was probably a fair result on the night, given the heroics of the Toronto keeper. An archive of the match is available on YouTube – it was a good one and worth a watch.
TFC II will close out their season on Saturday at FNB Field in Harrisburg against Penn FC – kickoff is at 7 p.m.