Exactly one year ago, Toronto FC III and FC London were matched up to kick off the season. The weather was cold and extremely windy — this site was the former military airport on the outskirts of Toronto. TFC III ran away with that game 6-0, since they were the team that was more used to practising in windy conditions and the visitors had switched to a mainly U21 roster for the first time after playing in the PDL for years.
I was expecting the game to be outside on the field turf just beside the BMO Training Ground’s main building doors. Someone had the foresight to NOT take the dome down this late in the year, though. We had an ice storm just two weeks ago!
Here’s what happened on the weekend when TFC III took on FC London.
59’ — London’s Randy Ribeiro rolls his penalty kick wide right of the post with goalie Gianluca Catalano beaten. (That makes TFC teams three for three on penalty stops this weekend with TFC and TFC II pulling off this feat the day before)
67’ — TFC III’s Shaan Hundal scores after Kai Martin crosses from 20 yards on the right into the box and Hundal blasts an 8 yarder down the middle into the top right side of net past goalie Anthony Sokalski.
81’ — FCL’s Patrick Melo scores after Randy Ribeiro blasts a free kick up the middle from 30 yards and the ball takes a few deflections, and Melo on the left blasts a 10 yarder into the top right corner of the net over the flying goalie.
93’ — TFC’s Luca Petrasso eludes a challenge on the right end line and gets away a 12-yard shot that deflects off a defender. The goalie smothers the loose ball on the right post.
Final Score: Toronto FC III 1-1 FC London
This was a rough game with referee Braedon Krampert giving out eight yellow cards (three to TFC III). They were all earned in that they were all rough challenges or sliding tackles or strategic to prevent break outs and break ins. TFC’s Kai Martin knocked over FCL’s Connor Wilson who was breaking in from the left, but Wilson was fast enough and he got into the box before the collision and that’s what earned the FCL penalty instead of a yellow and free kick with more than a dozen players in the box.
Martin made up for giving up the penalty with the assist while Ribeiro’s assist made up for his missed penalty kick.
Some of my questions were answered about the TFC II roster. Unused subs Luca Petrasso (brother of Canadian national team and Montreal Impact player Michael Petrasso) and Steffen Yeates were both starters in today’s game. Danny Dichio is back as head coach again this year. Benoit Cheyrou, who was honoured in the weekend’s TFC game, was listed as an assistant although he is officially the coach of their U-17 team.
Defender Kembo Kibato has joined the TFC III roster this year. Last year he was named as a L1O third team all-star while playing with North Toronto Nitros — a team that did not return to L1O this season. He could be a discovery player like Raheem Edwards who was with ANB Futbol for two seasons before they stopped fielding L1O teams and he crossed over to the TFC system.
TFC III have dropped last year’s defender and captain Steven Furlano who landed at new team Darby FC and scored their lone goal over the weekend in a 1-1 tie against Woodbridge. They also dropped forward and last year’s L1O Young Player of the Year Cyrus Rollocks, who had 17 league goals last season. Rollocks scored a goal last night for his new club Master’s Futbol in their 3-3 tie against Aurora.
London had mostly players I saw last year except leading scorer Elvir Gigolaj, who is no longer listed on the league website. They have a new head coach; Michael Marcoccia, who coached the women’s L1O team last year, has now also taken over duty for the men’s team — try that John Herdman! Marcoccia played for the L1O team up until 2016 and goes back years to London City of the CPSL, where he was so valued that the club had a full sized decal of him on the side of the team bus.
Attendance was about 200 that I say may not have been consistent, as TFC was hosting an open house for the London TFC Academy and people kept coming and going. There were a lot of children and many of them girls. FC London are the current L1O women’s league and L1O Cup women’s champions. When FCL scored the tying goal the place exploded in squeals as if Justin Bieber had just come out for a concert. Hmm he’s been going for ten years, maybe I should have used younger guys like Rae Sremmurd? Greta Van Fleet? (nah it’s old guys like me who say they’re the new Led Zeppelin). I couldn’t blame them as London is their home. There’s a good chance some in their L1O lineup work at their academy camps.
TFC have a similar relationship with Windsor TFC, providing coaching, training, and clinics which TFC can use as good scouting for teenagers that can be funnelled over to the TFC Academy. Also (cynically), building support could make it more difficult to plop a Canadian Premier League team in those cities.
FCL turned in a lineup with no numbers assigned between players. Apparently the jerseys had just arrived. I was expecting a variation of TFC all-reds because of their relationship but they were black and white with sponsor “Libro Credit Union” on the chest. Similar to last year’s away kits without the neon green numbers.
This was the opening game of the season for both teams. With the all the weekend results now known including two other ties, TFC III and FC London are in a six way tie for sixth place with one point in the new 17-team, single table league. Each team plays the other once. The top eight advance to a playoff of two groups of four. Winners of the two groups play for the championship.
I lucked out in to not having to watch this game in the cold and windy outdoors but was I ever going to make up for it later that night for the inaugural game of Alliance United at Centennial College in Scarborough.