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2018 USL Preview: Toronto FC II

A survey of the TFC II roster ahead of the beginning of the 2018 USL season

USL pic - TFCII’s Uccello holds off Bethlehem Steel defender
Uccello is amongst a core group that will be looked to lead TFC II in 2018
Martin Bazyl

Toronto FC II gets their USL season underway on Saturday when they travel to Red Bull Arena to face New York Red Bulls II at 1 p.m.

2017 was not kind to TFC II. The club finished in 15th place in the Eastern Conference on 25 points from 32 matches with a record of six wins, 19 losses, and seven draws, burdened by a minus-27 goal-difference.

There is much hope that 2018, their fourth season in the league, will be better.

New Coach

A good place to start is with the new man in charge, Laurent Guyot.

Guyot takes over from Jason Bent, who managed the previous three seasons and joined the first team staff in the offseason.

A veteran of both first team management and youth development, Guyot is uniquely skilled to manage those dual roles required by TFC II. He has said that his task is 60% about winning and 40% about development.

WTR spoke with Guyot last week in anticipation of kickoff.

Roster Construction

At his disposal, Guyot has a talented, but young, squad of 20 players at time of writing.

It can be helpful to break the roster into three groups – homegrown USL core, young talent, and international additions – with a fourth consideration – outside sources – that breaks further into two streams: from the first team; from the academy.

And it must be stressed that these are very general categories. There is a fair amount of overlap between them and placing a player in one no way means he does not fall under the remit of another.

The homegrown USL core consists mainly of players who will be taking part in their third or fourth season in USL, though that is not true of all named. They are signed to USL contracts and can be expected to be relied upon to play a solid portion of the minutes this season.

They include: goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo, defender Robert Boskovic, midfielders Aidan Daniels, Malik Johnson, Luca Uccello, and Matt Srbely, and forward Shaan Hundal.

Aside from Cavalluzzo who is 25, they range from 20-year-old Uccello to 18-year-old Hundal – when either Guyot or Greg Vanney talks about 97s, 98s, and 99s, these are the players to whom they are referring.

The next group, young talent, goes a touch younger – think the 2000 age group – and includes Dante Campbell, Julian Dunn, Noble Okello, and Rocco Romeo.

These players that should be seen as on par with those mentioned above in nearly every regard, with the exception that due to their younger age, they are less likely to have as much USL experience.

As mentioned, this is a bit of a tenuous distinction.

They will be expected to rise to the occasion, while continuing their development, gaining USL experience to become valuable contributors over the course of the season. All have tasted this level before and have proven capable.

The third section is a bit of a grab bag, the unifying aspect being they have not been developed in the TFC Academy to any extent.

From the Trinidadian duo of forward Aikim Andrews and defender Jelani Peters, to recent MLS SuperDraft picks defender Tim Kubel and goalkeeper Drew Shephard, to international newcomers in the midfielder, Alan Mariano Mino and Gideon Waja.

There are three others that fall into this loose classification: Defender Kyle Bjornethun, one of the four signings announced on Thursday; Calgary-born, West Ham-raised forward/midfielder Malyk Hamilton who joined a few weeks ago, and the returning jack-of-all-trades Ryan Telfer, a Mississauga-native.

The general theme is that these are players that TFC are interested in seeing develop, while also bringing something necessary to the squad – for example, Bjornethun is a left-back, a position of need at the moment.

The aforementioned fourth category relates to players not on the USL roster, who may be drafted in for a match or a spell, from either the first team or from the academy. Whether it is for fitness reasons or match sharpness for first teamers, or a chance to see how a youngster fares at this level, there will certainly be some minutes invested in this manner over the course of the season.

Schedule and Venues

TFC II will play 34 matches this season, 17 on the road and 17 at home. Those at home will be divided between three venues: BMO Field, Lamport Stadium – once renovations are complete, and Rochester – where with the Rhinos taking a gap year.

The move downtown does offer some interesting possibilities. While up in Vaughan, there was an element of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for the Young Reds. Moving downtown, where transportation and proximity makes possible greater exposure.

In addition, all TFC season ticket holders have had season passes to TFC II included in their packages.

Another aspect of the move, at least while they play at BMO Field, is that the side will play on a much better surface than the one up at the Ontario Soccer Centre, which is more designed for the heavy use required by youth soccer than the pristine conditions preferred by the professional game.

Influence Coverage

Waking the Red reached out a few days ago in a call for readers to help shape the coverage of TFC II – lots of excellent responses so far, please add your voice to the conversation.

And if you would like to hear this and more in audio form, I’ve had the chance to discuss TFC II on two occasions over the past few weeks: first with Evan Villella on the USL Show and then with Kevin Laramee and Duane Rollins on Soccer Today.