After a home match in Rochester, Toronto FC II will be back in town on Wednesday when they host Penn FC at Monarch Park – kickoff is set for 11 a.m.
The Young Reds return to action off the back of a disappointing loss on Saturday, falling 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the first home match played in Rochester at Marina Auto Stadium.
A slow start all but doomed TFC II, conceding twice inside the opening 36 minutes, leaving Shaan Hundal’s stoppage-time strike as too little, too late.
“The game was good after 25 minutes; unfortunately, it was too late,” said Laurent Guyot on Tuesday. “Young players have to understand that games start at the kickoff. You have to be ready to compete, to fight. It was lax, so we gave the opportunity to the opponent to score.”
“The end of first half, the last 15 minutes of the second half were better,” noted Guyot. “But it’s frustrating. You have to be ready from the first second in a game like that, especially against Pittsburgh because they’re a really good team.”
Perhaps the one positive, aside from Hundal scoring his first goal of the season, was the return of Matt Srbely from injury.
“It felt good to get the first minutes back from injury,” said Srbely. “It was a fast-paced game, good atmosphere; a tight game. We scored in the last few minutes, but hopefully we get better results moving forward.”
With such a young side, every match is a chance to gather more evidence and put that information to work in improving the side, both the players individually and the group as a unit.
That has been a major point of emphasis for Guyot.
“We have to learn quickly,” stressed the coach. “I told the players, ‘We don’t learn quickly enough’. The team is improving, but not fast enough.”
In particular on Saturday, the midfield was singled out as a point of emphasis. In replacing Gideon Waja with Luca Uccello, it had a more forward-minded outlook, which proved costly in not protecting and recovering the ball efficiently enough without the savvy Ghanaian out there.
“We need big improvement. All have to understand that midfielders have to do both, defend and attack. That’s the reason why it’s tough to be a midfielder,” said Guyot, himself a former centre-back. “[It doesn’t matter what you can do with the ball if] you give too many opportunities to the opponent. So far we don’t have the level for that.”
“It’s a big weakness in this team team,” continued Guyot. “We have to work on that.”
Guyot wants to see the priority placed on the defensive aspects: “First of all I’m here to take the ball, to recover [it] and after to use it. We have a lot of players with good abilities [going forward], but it’s a big problem to use the ball if you don’t have it.”
Toronto will be looking to implement those lessons on Wednesday when they welcome Penn FC to town.
Formerly known as the Harrisburg City Islanders, Penn FC arrive off the back of a 1-0 loss at home against Ottawa Fury FC on Monday. Coach Raoul Voss will be looking to navigate a tricky stretch that sees them play three matches in five days – they beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-0 on Friday, their first and only win of the season.
Entering the contest on seven points from eight matches, Penn sit in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and have struggled on the road, winless away through four with a pair of draws.
Tommy Heinemann leads team with three goals, having nabbed a brace in Friday’s win over Tampa Bay.
“They’re a good team,” said Srbely. “They played yesterday, so they’re probably be a little tired, coming off a loss – late winner from Ottawa – maybe the morale may be lower, who knows. It doesn’t change our game plan.”
Guyot was flummoxed by the scheduling and how that will affect Penn’s game plan: “Their schedule is strange. They play three games in five days; got some injuries last game, it’s tough to guess how they are going to play.”
“A team of players with big experience,” continued Guyot. “They know the level, know what to do to manage a game. It’s going to be competitive, another tough game. All will be tough for us. I know the level and the level is good. I want to be more focused on what we are able to do. We need to be able to compete from first second to the last second.”
Coach Voss was clear in his side’s intent when he spoke to PennFC.com post-match on Monday: “We go, wipe our mouth off, and try to win those three points back that we lost in Toronto.”
The early kickoff marks the first School Day match of the season and due to the state of the pitch at BMO Field, the match was moved to Monarch Park on Monday.
Srbely is not bothered by the early kickoff: “It doesn’t change anything. We prepare the same way. It’s going to be a good crowd tomorrow, hopefully the atmosphere is good and we get some points.”
“The school days are fun,” smiled Srbely. “Having all the kids there, a nice atmosphere. It helps the team get up for the game. Hopefully we can put in a good performance for them.”
Srbely has some experience at the new location, having played at the stadium a few times in League1 Ontario with TFC III.
Still, the relocation is another bizarre twist in an unusual start to the season for TFC II.
“It’s going to be the fourth home opener,” laughed Guyot, referring to the home match that was played in Pittsburgh, the one at BMO Field, the one in Rochester, and now this one. “We are the first and only team with a fourth. We have to deal with that. It’s still a soccer game, 11 v 11, and the best should win.”
Though attendance is highly encouraged, the match will be streamed on YouTube:
Foreshadowing a future article on translating potential – Guyot was kind enough to entertain a request for a story from his long and diverse career in the game – results in the professional game are a combination of potential and effort.
“So far, based on results, we know we are not the best,” admitted Guyot. “I’m confident in the potential of this team, but step-by-step we have to show better character, better personality to get more and better results.”