Toronto FC II stunned Louisville City FC – and the rest of USL – on Tuesday night with a 4-1 away victory at Louisville Slugger Field in Kentucky.
Tsubasa Endoh gave Toronto the lead after 28 minutes, only for Louisville to drag one back in the 37th minute through their captain, Ilija Ilic. The hosts would threaten to open the match further throughout the rest of the first half, but Caleb Patterson-Sewell was equal to the challenge.
Come the second frame, it was TFC II who would find the breakthrough, again through Endoh, adding his second in the 64th minute. Additional strikes from Malik Johnson and Dante Campbell would round out the scoring, earning Toronto their first road win of the 2018 season.
Michael Rabasca made four changes from the side that lost 3-2 to Indy Eleven last week: 18-year-old left-back Terique Mohammed made his first start of the season, coming in for Kyle Bjornethun; Dante Campbell and Malik Johnson replaced Liam Fraser and Jon Bakero in the midfield and Shaan Hundal took up Jordan Hamilton’s striking position atop the formation.
Being able to field a rather consistent starting XI has been critical to the recent success Toronto has been able to find – the win was their third in six matches, having gone winless through the first eighteen games.
Patterson-Sewell, a calming veteran influence, remained in net; across the back-line Tim Kubel, Lars Eckenrode, and Robert Boskovic provided a measure of stability alongside Mohammed.
In midfield, Campbell joined Noble Okello in the two-man deep-lying roles, while Johnson slotted into the three-man attacking unit with Matt Srbely and Endoh, while Hundal ranged all over the field, linking up well with his teammates throughout the match.
The defending champions looked to take the lead through the opening half-four, twice finding the back of the net, only to be denied by the offside flag on each occasion.
The first came after just eleven minutes when Kyle Smith got behind the Toronto back-line via a ball from Speedy Williams to beat Patterson-Sewell – had the full-back held his run, he would have been in. The second fell in the 27th minute when Cameron Lancaster was played through by Niall McCabe, but he too was offside.
A minute later, Toronto would take the lead through some excellent play beginning with a throw-in from Mohammed. He flung the ball towards Hundal, who got a foot on it, touching in-field towards Johnson who deftly poked it forward into the path of Endoh sneaking down the left-side of the area. Endoh coolly slotted a left-footer past Greg Ranjitsingh in the Louisville goal.
The home side would pull back level in the 37th minute when McCabe sent a hopeful ball into the area. Lancaster could not control it cleanly, but his touch fell to Ilic, who neatly manoeuvred away from the pressure of Mohammed and beat Patterson-Sewell with a right-footer to the left-side of goal.
Buoyed by the equalizer, Louisville looked to add another in the remaining ten minutes of the half. Patterson-Sewell did well to get down to deny a low right-footer from Williams in the 39th minute and then, from the ensuing corner kick, got his fingertips to a strong header, tipping it over the bar.
Two minutes later, Lancaster whipped a curling ball from the top of the box just wide of the right-post.
Having survived that late push, Toronto faced more pressure from the home side in the opening stages of the second half with Williams again drawing a fine save out of Patterson-Sewell, who rushed off his line to close down a shot from the right-side of the area.
But it was TFC II who would find the next goal when Johnson collected a ball deep in his own half and surged towards the Louisville goal in the 64th minute. He found Hundal drifting to the left and showing for the ball. The striker, having drawn the attention of the nearest defender in-field, alertly back-heel into the path of Endoh arriving from wide on the left.
Endoh’s first-time finish was perfectly placed low and across the goalkeeper to find the bottom far-corner of goal.
And then it was Johnson himself who added the third in the 70th minute, arriving at the near-post to tuck a finish past the goalkeeper at the short-side after Srbely burst into area on the right to play a cut-back to his teammate, stunning the home faithful.
Another water break and some very physical play saw the next ten minutes tick by slowly, TFC II doing their part to disrupt any rhythm and Boskovic showing his strength and ability on two big occasions: first out-muscling Luke Spencer to get in a clearance as the big striker tried to surge into the area and then racing stride-for-stride with Lancaster to win a huge tackle.
And Patterson-Sewell would continue to be alert, rushing off his line again in the 84th minute to nip a ball away from Ilic when he was poked in behind.
Rabasca would go to his bench late, bringing on Gideon Waja for Hundal in the 85th minute to solidify the midfield.
90 minutes played, TFC would face a whopping eight minutes of extra time.
With Louisville pressing, Toronto would break from a corner kick with Endoh again leading the way. He played wide right to Waja, who found Endoh with a return ball. On a hat-trick, rather than go for goal himself, Endoh unselfishly square to a wide-open Campbell on the left-side for a right-footed finish into the gaping night.
The dancing then began; Campbell earning some further ire from the shocked fans of Louisville.
Late cameos from Kunle Dada-Luke and Jordan Faria, coming on for Johnson and Srbely in the 94th minute, were more about slowing the pace and inserted some fresh legs for the final few minutes of added time.
Lancaster would rattle the bar from a dead-ball in the 97th minute, but the final whistle was blown soon enough and Toronto could enjoy their night.
An archive of the match is available on YouTube – definitely some recommended viewing.
There is little time to relish the victory, as TFC II returns home for a Friday night clash against Atlanta United 2 at Lamport Stadium.