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Toronto FC II fall to Tampa Bay Rowdies in goalfest

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The first comeback wasn’t enough for the Young Reds.

USL Photo - TFC II’s Luca Uccello on the ball against Bethlehem Steel FC Martin Bazyl

Toronto FC II took on the Tampa Bay Rowdies at BMO Field on Saturday. Here’s what went down...

23’ Toronto FC II 0-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies — Marcel Schafer running down left sideline crosses in from the 18 yard line over Jochen Graf and two defenders on left, and it bounces to the charging Junior Flemmings on the right, who shoots a three-yarder between goalie and post.

24’ Toronto FC II 0-2 Tampa Bay Rowdies — TFC goalie Caleb Patterson-Sewell and a defender make two saves on shots inside the box and the ball deflects out to Michael Nanchoff at 25 yards. He one-touches a blast up the middle between a crowd of players to the low left corner of net past diving goalie.

49’ Toronto FC II 1-2 Tampa Bay Rowdies — TFC’s Luca Petrasso just inside the box stops a cross from right end line and takes a step back and crosses into the six-yard box where Dante Campbell bumps the defender to get ball at five yards and roll it into the left corner of the net beyond the diving goalie.

62’ Toronto FC II 2-2 Tampa Bay Rowdies — TFC’s Luca Uccello blocks Tampa defender Max Lachowecki’s clearance and steps past him to get in on a breakaway up the middle. He gets to 18 yards with a faster defender catching him and rolls a pass to the charging Malik Johnson, who one touches an eight-yarder from the left rolling under sprawling goalie Akira Fitzgerald at five yards into the centre of the net.

72’ Toronto FC II 2-3 Tampa Bay Rowdies — Marcel Schafer bends a 35 yard free kick from the left over to the right side of the six-yard box and Hunter Gorskie steps in front of TFC’s Aikim Andrews who was trying for a midair kick. He heads it over the upraised arms of the goalie into the centre of the net.

87’ Toronto FC II 2-4 Tampa Bay Rowdies — TFC’s Brandon Onkony misheads a TBR clearance at the centre line and the ball lands at TFC’s 50-yard line where Junior Flemmings runs down the right cutting towards the middle on a breakaway and lofts a 20 yarder over the goalie at five yards into the middle of the net.

Final Score: Toronto FC II 2-4 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Attendance wasn’t announced but the USL website published it at 141. Rowdies players came over to the sideline after the game to thank their thirty or so fans who were in attendance. 141? Where were all those fans who complained that TFC II was playing in the sticks in Vaughan in front of crowds of 700-1100 who promised they’d come when the club moved to the downtown? I guess the downtown hipsters were staying home prepping for the Champions League final.

Just this year three of the TFC II players moved up to the MLS team. Today’s goalie was on the bench last night in case Clint Irwin was hurt. Our TFC II tote bags given out at the game will be collector’s items!

TFC II, who haven’t won this season, had me going with their comeback... thinking the humid heat wasn’t bothering them so no advantage to the Florida players and maybe the young energy would triumph over the older players on the Rowdies roster. Most famous are former English international Joe Cole, team captain at 36; Bulgarian Georgi Hristov at 33, who was subbed on at 77 minutes; and former Germany international Marcel Schafer, also 33, who took the corners and free kicks.

A game ago, defender Neill Collins was suddenly named the head coach at age 34. He was on the sidelines today. Double goalscorer Junior Flemmings is only 22 and a Jamaican international who I remember here last season with New York Red Bulls II.

Luca Uccello was back as a starter for TFC II as the captain. This is his fourth year on the team (he’s still only 20). I was only noticing him as he was on the bench and becoming a late sub or not coming on at all. Head coach Laurent Guyot said after the game Uccello’s expectations are higher (after four years in USL) and it was tough mentally for him a few weeks ago but now he’s back (two goals against Atlanta United 2). He said the assist today “showed an amazing spirit.”

Guyot said this team so far is like a puzzle! They’ve never had the full puzzle — sometimes the defence is good and sometimes the offence breaks through but never together. “It’s an issue,” he said.

Yes he’s right! A puzzle! They’ve scored seven goals in their last three games after only scoring three goals in their first eight. However they’ve allowed eleven goals in their last three games when before they had allowed a respectable thirteen goals in their first eight games.

Rowdies were in ninth at game time but vault to fifth (first game of a busy weekend) with a 5-5-1 record. They had not won on the road all season and hadn’t scored a road goal until this game.

TFC II’s record falls to 0 wins, 9 losses, 2 ties for 16th in the East. They now go on the road to Ottawa to play the Fury this Wednesday. The Fury started off the season with a record worse than TFC but have now rattled off five shutouts in a row.

In the Canadian Championship, Ottawa will face the playoff winner of the Oakville Blue Devils vs. AS Blainville (L1O vs PLSQ league champions) series. The winner of Ottawa’s tie with one of them advances to play TFC (the MLS team). Ottawa won their home leg against TFC last year. The fact that TFC have played so many Canadians in their main roster this season (through injuries to their starters) means they should be stronger than last year as Voyageurs’ Cup rules say teams must use three Canadian starters and last year they were using guys that had been on the bench for a month. I think TFC won’t be scrounging for match fit Canadians!

And... only I would dwell on this... TFC III in League 1 Ontario play tomorrow afternoon in a one-off League Cup game round of 16 on the road against Windsor TFC. With a lot of their firepower on today’s roster, I’m not sure who can step in to this must win game.

The field at BMO looked at the best it’s been this season but today is the last game as it’s being torn up to re-sod.