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Toronto FC II unable to hold off Richmond

TFC II fell 2-1 on the road to the Richmond Kickers on Wednesday evening in USL action

USL Photo - Toronto FC II’s Malik Johnson shields the ball from a Richmond defender at City Stadium in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Kickers
TFC II’s Malik Johnson shields the ball from a Richmond defender in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss on the road
Jessica Stone Hendricks/Richmond Kickers

Having collected their first point of the season a week ago at home, Toronto FC II started well, but were not able to build off those positives, instead losing once more on their travels.

Last Wednesday, a scoreless draw against North Carolina FC saw TFC II put in their best performance of the season. Laurent Guyot and his side looked to take the lessons from that outing to Richmond.

As such, Guyot went with a largely unchanged lineup: the back seven of goalkeeper, back-line, and central midfield duo were the same (Angelo Cavalluzzo; Brandon Onkony, Rocco Romeo, Robert Boskovic, Kyle Bjornethun; Gideon Waja, Noble Okello), while Aidan Daniels and Shaan Hundal retained their places in the starting eleven.

Of the two changes – Malik Johnson and Steffen Yeates – one was forced with Mariano Mino with the first team in Mexico and the other saw one youngster, Kunle Dada-Luke, replaced with another from TFC III.

Guyot and Daniels has both commented in the week leading up that the side had focused intently on maintaining their shape and making the most of spells of possession. The first element was on the display through the opening passages of the game as TFC II showed the effects of the defensive drilling.

They were impressively compact, moving well as a unit and stifling Richmond on their home turf. It was from that solidity that TFC II would open the scoring, enacting the second element of the preparations.

Johnson, who was a catalyst for much of the forward movement throughout, surged up the right before sending a ball into the middle for Hundal. The striker took a touch to settle, but with defenders swarming had the ball taken off his foot as he was preparing to shoot.

It was not an opponent, however, who robbed him of possession, but Daniels, who arrived at speed, took a neat touch around the committed defenders and placed a low shot underneath the Richmond keeper, Travis Worra, in the 9th minute.

The game plan worked excellently.

But with success comes a frailty. And two minutes later, Richmond pulled level as Toronto let Richmond work towards goal and were caught deep when Dane Kelly laid a ball back to Yudai Imura who ripped a blast from range past Cavalluzzo.

As the saying goes, a team is always at its most vulnerable moments after scoring. Yet another lesson for Guyot to impart on the young side.

Toronto dusted themselves off and went back to work for the remainder of the first half. The midfield partnership of Okello and Waja shone, as it did the previous week. And with Waja pushed a little more forward, his interplay with Johnson was encouraging.

USL Photo - Toronto FC II’s Gideon Waja on the ball in midfielder against the Richmond Kickers during Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss at City Stadium
TFC II’s Gideon Waja gets on the ball in midfield against Richmond - the Ghanaian impressed once more in the middle of the park
Jessica Stone Hendricks/Richmond Kickers

Perhaps their best look came in the 24th minute when Waja found Johnson down the right and he ripped a shot at Worra, that the keeper managed to swat away.

But Richmond too had their chances with Brian Shriver just going wide from distance and Christopher Osei-Wusu nearly getting on the end of an inviting cross having gotten behind the TFC back-line.

After half-time, something else that Guyot had touched on recently came to fruition.

The Frenchman had said that it was normal for young players to fade in the later stages of a match – something evidenced against North Carolina – and that with youth come mistakes.

The Kickers began to find far too much space up the attacking right with the restart and come the 55th minute, Raul Gonzalez surged up that side and flung a ball towards the near-post area.

With a mass of bodies arriving, it was difficult to determine who got the crucial last touch as the ball rebounded into the TFC II net.

Eventually, it was decided that it was an Onkony own-goal.

Both sides made their subs: Toronto replaced Hundal in the 58th minute with Aikim Andrews, who returned to his forward position having featured at right-back previously this season. Dada-Luke came on for Okello in the 66th, an attacker for a defender essentially, with TFC pushing for an equalizer. And Luca Petrasso came on in the 79th minute for Bjornethun.

But despite the attacking intent, Toronto were unable to find the equalizer they desired, and instead were forced to settle for the 2-1 defeat.

There is precious little time to nurse any wounds from the loss as they return to the pitch on Saturday in the second part of a double-header at BMO Field on Saturday, against New York Red Bull II after the first team looks to overcome some disappointment of their own against the Chicago Fire in the afternoon.

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, roughly an hour and a half after the TFC-Fire match concludes, go for a walk and return to BMO Field for what should be a rather tasty rematch between sides that met on the opening day of the season at Red Bull Arena.