Toronto FC II lost 3-2 to Indy Eleven on Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Ben Speas and Jack McInerney got the home side off to an early lead, only for Tsubasa Endoh and Jordan Hamilton to pull TFC II level before half-time. But familiar problems reared their heads in the second half, leading to the game-winning goal from Dylan Mares.
Michael Rabasca stuck to the formula that has proven successful in recent weeks, trotting out a consistent XI, bolstered by a handful of first teamers.
Jon Bakero made his debut for the USL side, while Liam Fraser and Jordan Hamilton were also in the starting lineup. Noble Okello too was reinserted into midfield, alongside Fraser as the two-man shield in place of Gideon Waja and Dante Campbell – continuing the unwanted trend of interview subjects going on to not feature in the next match.
The back-five went unchanged with Caleb Patterson-Sewell in goal and the quartet (from right to left) of Tim Kubel, Lars Eckenrode, Robert Boskovic, and Kyle Bjornethun in front of him. Matt Srbely and Endoh retained their midfield roles with Srbely central and Endoh on the left, nominally at least. Bakero was drafted in on the right, though the trio were rather fluid throughout. And Hamilton stepped in for Hundal atop the formation.
Toronto started brightly, winning a series of corner kicks and creating a flurry of half chances with some good early pressure, but it was Indy who capitalized on virtually their first real look of the night when Mares got on the ball in the 18th minute and picked out the run of Speas with a long pass that caught the back-line napping.
Speas settled the long ball on the bouncy turf before sliding a right-footer past Patterson-Sewell to the right-side of goal.
Hamilton would send a header over the bar, rising up to meet a cross from Kubel in the 23rd minute, but seconds later Jack McInerney pounced on a loose ball after some misfortune to double the hosts lead.
Mares again was in the middle of the action, sliding a pass down the right-flank for Soony Saad, who in turn flung a hopeful cross into the area. Kubel’s attempted clearance, however, banked off of Eckenrode and fell kindly for McInerney, who finished with a simple right-footer to the left-side of goal from near the penalty spot.
Down by two after 24 minutes, Toronto went in search of a means back into the game.
The opportunity came in the 28th minute when Hamilton played a deft one-two with Srbely to drive towards the Indy box. He was felled right on the edge of the area, setting up a dangerous free-kick.
Bakero seemed intent on taking it, but Endoh managed to talk him off before lining up a right-footer from 18 yards on the left-side of the arc.
His rip sailed sweetly over the wall and into the top right-corner, leaving Indy keeper Owain Fon Williams nothing to do but kick the ball away in disgust.
Five minutes later, TFC II were level when Hamilton recovered a ball in midfield and found the space to stride towards goal. From range, he shaped a left-footer sweetly past the keeper at the left-side of goal to tie the game at twos - his fourth goal in six appearances for TFC II.
And Hamilton would have another look before the half-time whistle, sending another header just over the bar.
Toronto would start the second half as they had the first, looking to take the lead through a combination of pressure and neat attacking play: Bakero tried to slip a pass through the back-line for Hamilton, only for it to be cut out; then Okello nearly got on the end of an Endoh corner kick, and Bakero got a flick on a ball towards the near-post from Srbely, but his redirection was off-frame.
Two minutes after that Bakero touch, it was Indy who would take the lead.
Mares was allowed to advance up the left, moving in-field as the defence backed off. As he approached the 18-yard-box, he opened up his hips to place a right-footer beyond the reach of a partially-screened Patterson-Sewell to the far-side of goal in the 58th minute.
Indy would howl for a penalty two minutes on when Saad tried to surge between a pair of Toronto defenders before going down, but the referee waived away their claims.
Try though they might, TFC II could not find a means back into the game. The best chance came late from Bakero when he nearly picked out Srbely at the back-post with a ball from the right.
Rabasca went to his bench twice in the closing ten minutes, bringing on Hundal for Boskovic in the 80th minute and replacing Bakero with Aidan Daniels in the 92nd minute, but Indy’s lead would hold.
An archive of the match is available on YouTube – it’s worth a watch, though the sheer brightness of the end zones, the confused mass of lines, and the bounciness make for some difficult viewing.
Much though lineup consistency, increased experience in the XI, and ‘the process’ has proven fruitful over the past weeks, Toronto will be disappointed that familiar problems proved their doom.
On all three Indy goals, there were things that Toronto could have done better. Perhaps most galling, was the lack of pressure on the ball that made it far too easy for the opponent to create chances.
All three goals were preventable. A first road point of the season was there for the taking, but errors, both individually and collectively, saw it slip from their grasp once more.
The Young Reds have little time to lick their wounds, as they brace for another tricky away date on Tuesday, August 28 when they travel to Kentuky to face Louisville City FC. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Louisville Slugger Field.