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Toronto FC II play to scoreless draw with North Carolina FC

Better than another loss, though.

I suppose no one could expect a goal-a-thon. The visitors North Carolina FC had only scored four goals in four games and won their first game on Saturday so they may have been tired for this game. Toronto FC II had only scored once up until tonight and their marker was in their season opener against New York Red Bulls II.

Still, the best takeaway is that TFC II shut out the opponents for the first time this season after having conceded eight goals in three games including four against Pittsburgh. The turnaround from that game is what TFC II head coach Laurent Guyot said in his post match scrum pleased him the most.

This was the third time the team had tried to get in a home game. The others were postponed to spare the field for the first team. The combination of the cold and wet weather and the MLS team’s continuing advancement through round after round of the CONCACAF Champions League pushed along TFC II’s chance of getting in a home game. They had to turn their last attempt into a road game in Pittsburgh on a few days’ notice.

TFC II’s man of the match award was given to midfielder Alan Mariano Mino who had some good runs and a few shots at net. He is from Argentina, and he’s come from IA Sud América, a first division team in Uruguay. At age 24 he’s somewhat older than the homegrowns on the team but comparable with the few MLS draft picks who don’t catch on immediately with the big team.

Coach Guyot said the best player on the field was Aidan Daniels. Daniels was one of the three TFC II players who signed a first team contract last week for a chance to play in the TFC road game against Colorado last week. He is the only one who returned as another reserve-heavy lineup is expected to play against the Houston Dynamo tomorrow.

Referee Yusri Rudolf gave out one yellow card to each team in a game that never got rough. He didn’t fall for a few shouts for penalty kicks which looked too lame to expect any call. Assistant referee Melissa Snedden was kept busy disallowing a goal for each team and calling more non-scoring offside calls.

The best non-scoring chances were at 22 minutes with Mino making a long rush on the left, eluding two players and making a low cross to Shaan Hundal, who shot over the net from eight yards. Brandon Onkony and Aidan Daniels both blasted long-range shots from outside the box that missed the net.

At 47 minutes, Daniels eluded a sliding defender and his 22-yard shot was saved by the goalie diving to the left. Four minutes later, TFC II’s Noble Okello had the goalie reaching to the left side of goal to stop his long-range shot. 66 minutes had Daniels elude a sliding defender on a run up the left and tap a pass back inside the box and TFC II substitute Malik Johnson’s 10 yard shot was over the net. Toward the end of the game, Ayo Akinola sent in a pass across to the open Johnson whose 10-yard shot was stopped by the sliding goalie on the left post. NCFC’s best chance came when Kyle Bekker sent in a corner kick from the right that was only partially cleared and NCFC sub Marios Lomis blasted a 20-yard shot off the bar.

USL league stats list NCFC winning in corner kicks at 6-1 and crosses at 22-10 but TFC II having a 4-1 advantage in shots on goal. That seems pretty stingy to NCFC but I’d give my MOTM to goalie Angelo Cavalluzzo, who saved TFC a point with an injury time stop on late sub Bernard Luxbacher who broke in from the left and got away a shot from 10 yards that Cavalluzzo, guarding the near post, got an arm to and deflected it wide right.

I wondered how much moving up three USL starters to the main team on what I expect was short notice affected the team. Even if they all are eventually lent back down after the CCL run ends next week, the disruption to training and availability may cause problems at that time.

I didn’t like NCFC’s uniforms when navy blue is their team colour. Tonight’s gold numbers on white shirts were hard to decipher—almost as bad as CD Guadalajara’s black numbers on red and white stripes. Anyway in-the-box pileups were confusing with goalie Cavalluzzo’s all white kit.

Attendance was about 110 by my estimate. The USL website posts only 50! It was a bitterly cold night just like last night’s CCL game but this is really bad. I was thinking the Leafs were playing as they alternate hockey and basketball since their playoffs started but neither team was playing. Last year the message boards screamed that the Ontario Soccer Centre was so far away (just outside the city limits) and the fans would flock to be downtown and they’d get more than their 500 to 1000.

There were no children in the crowd. Tickets are free to TFC season ticket holders (last year was $12), but outsiders are either $15 or $30. I couldn’t see the difference as all the folks were squeezed into Section 107 in the East stands. One concession stand and one beer stand was open but with security, ushers, and kitchen staff there were more staff than fans. I suppose all the downtown hipsters were having their beards trimmed tonight.

The event optics could have been planned a bit better. The players lined up for the national anthems at the same place as the MLS games but there were no fans on the west side. Eight TFC II grounds crew (rather than dozens of children) brought out the flags to our side of the field. The players eventually awkwardly turned to face us so the cameras picked up their backs. Camera work was top notch, major league calibre. We got to see highlights on the video board.

The website of North Carolina FC said their team has now gone 255 minutes without allowing a goal. Alex Tambakis earned the shutout (his second in a row) with a few key saves. NCFC played in the NASL last year; it appears they and Jacksonville Armada had the good sense to bail before that league collapsed. A Wikipedia search of that 2017 team shows that only six players were brought along. One of their new players is midfielder Kyle Bekker, who played for TFC’s MLS team in 2013 and 2014. Last year he played for San Francisco Deltas of NASL, who won the championship and promptly folded for lack of support. He took a lot of the free kicks and corners that I remember watching him take for the Canadian national team and a brief time with Sigma FC of League 1 Ontario between gigs at higher leagues.

The field looked cosmetically in good shape at the start of the game after last night’s CCL match but once the game began it wasn’t long before the field showed how scuffed up it was. There won’t be a problem for the grounds crew as TFC won’t play here again until Saturday, April 28 against Chicago Fire. One hour after that TFC II plays against New York Red Bulls II. The weather should be warmer so the field should be able to hold up unless it rains. It will be interesting to see how many fans they can retain (lock the gates!). Even 10% would be awesome! TFC II play next Wednesday on the road against Richmond Kickers—a team they dueled with last year for last place.

The tie improves TFC II to zero wins, one tie, three losses. They move to 15th of the 16 teams in the East. Last place is Ottawa Fury at three losses in three games who have gone to a more Canadian lineup this year (still, I’d say TFC II have more). Fury may be kingpins next season if they bail out and join the new Canadian Premier League. NCFC improve to one win, one tie, and three losses for 11th place... yeah, tonight’s game was not a battle of powerhouses.