Toronto FC II will be looking to build on their best outing of the season come Wednesday night when they travel to Virginia to face the Richmond Kickers at City Stadium – kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Having lost the first three matches on the road, TFC II finally played their home opener last Wednesday, at the third time of asking, drawing 0-0 against North Carolina FC at BMO Field.
Had a bounce or two gone their way, or Aidan Daniels not gotten in the way of his teammates’ shots, Toronto may have won the game, though they did still need a massive late save from Angelo Cavalluzzo to preserve their first point of the 2018 campaign.
“It’s a good performance, a good result. We got our first point, a clean sheet as well,” said TFC II coach Laurent Guyot post-match. “[As] we took eight goals in three games, it’s obvious [this] is a good performance for us, even if the last 10 minutes were really tough. We got some good chances as well, unfortunatley we didn’t score.”
“When you don’t start well the season, three losses in a row, you know by experience you’re going to get point by point,” continued Guyot. “Hopefully for the confidence of the players it’s going to be a good result.”
On the heels of a dispiriting 4-0 collapse in Pittsburgh, the strong display was a welcome change.
“I wasn’t happy after the second half performance in Pittsburgh,” said Guyot. “You can concede one goal, but you can’t collapse like that. Mentally the performance was poor. We talked about that during the week, before the game as well. It’s maybe the best news for me tonight. Some good things offensively, defensively, but mentally the team was here today.”
“Now we have to work on it, use this game to become better and to get better results,” added Guyot. “Even if I look happy, it’s just one point. Step-by-step. They are young and we need time to improve.”
The point was not just a function of playing at home, but of the effort put into training.
“We’ve been working ever since Pittsburgh to be tighter in our lines and [on] staying compact,” said Daniels post-match. “It worked. We’ve got to keep that going and be consistent.”
Daniels was particularly encouraged by their, “ball movement.”
“We were more confident on the ball playing out from the back,” noted Daniels. “That was one of the biggest things: we have a young team and building confidence is always good, shows we can play in this league.”
A week on, the side braces for an away match against the Richmond Kickers. Led by head coach Leigh Cowlishaw, Richmond have struggled out of the gates, sitting on four points from five matches with a win and a draw, both of which have come at home. Their sole defeat at City Stadium through three matches came back on March 24 when they lost 1-0 to Indy Eleven.
Richmond are coming off a weekend loss, having fallen 2-1 away to Louisville City FC on Saturday.
Ahead of the match, “the mood is good”, according to Guyot.
“We played a very good game last week. It was a tie, 0-0, for our first point, but beyond the point and the game, it was a very good performance, especially from the youngest players,” continued Guyot on Monday. “Now hopefully it’s going to give some confidence to the players and we’re going to be able to have the same type of performance in the future to get more points.”
Taking the show on the road, however, is a different matter.
“So far we didn’t perform away, except maybe the game in New York,” said Guyot. “We were not solid enough away. We worked on it, hopefully on Wednesday in Richmond we’re going to be better in this aspect.”
“In any game, you have to perform defensively if you want to get goal-scoring opportunities,” added Guyot. “[That] is another challenge for us; we didn’t score a lot of goals, not enough. If we want to breathe a little bit during a game it’s good to score. If you can [have a] lead sometimes it’s good as well, because you [put] the pressure on the opponent like that.”
Their aim is clear.
“We’re going there to win,” said Noble Okello. “We played well against North Carolina; preparing now for Richmond. A good run of training, go out and get a result.”
Wednesday’s match will kickoff a busy conclusion to April for TFC II – they face New York Red Bulls II in Toronto on Saturday as part of a double-header with the first team – before a hectic May gets underway, where six matches are scheduled.
Guyot has no concern about the energy levels of his team as the action starts to come thick and fast.
“They are young, hopefully they love soccer. You play two games, one of them is New York Red Bulls at BMO Field. It’s amazing,” said Guyot. “Sometimes when you don’t have games for ten days, it’s a lot of sessions, so when you have two in three days it’s good. For me, it’s not a concern.”
The side will be without Matt Srbely midweek, who is nearing return – Guyot said he may be ready for the weekend – and Jelani Peters is getting closer to completing his recovery from a long-term knee injury.
With the first team playing on Wednesday night as well, it is uncertain exactly who will be available for II in Richmond, as Greg Vanney has taken a large group to Guadalajara.
But with young legs and a deep squad, Toronto are eager to put the confidence from Wednesday’s result into the coming matches, even if the turnaround and travel are a challenge.
“Recovery is important,” stressed Okello about the upcoming fixtures. “Get as much rest, sleep, as possible, ice bathing, that type of thing. Make sure we’re ready for game after game.”
Outlined Okello: “We have a game, have to recover quickly, and Saturday at home we’ll look to get a result there as well.”
With the USL coverage moving from YouTube to ESPN+ in the U.S., it is unclear exactly where it will be streamed in Canada – the usual source for the stream link is barren at the moment – but keep an eye on TFC2.ca for details ahead of the 7 p.m. kickoff.