Toronto FC II lost another high-scoring contest on Sunday afternoon, falling 4-3 at Nippert Stadium to MLS-bound FC Cincinnati.
Tsubasa Endoh put the visitors ahead in the 24th minute, only for Forrest Lasso to equalize with a powerful header from a set-piece. Fanendo Adi then put Cincinnati in the lead come first half stoppage-time, but Endoh found the back of the net again before the half-time whistle was blown.
Endoh added his third in the 73rd minute – perhaps the best of the lot, but Corben Bone scored twice in the final quarter of an hour to overturn the Toronto lead.
Playing a second game of the week after the seesaw 3-3 draw against New York Red Bulls II on Thursday night, Michael Rabasca made a handful of changes to his starting XI.
Caleb Patterson-Sewell remained between the posts and much of the back-line – from right to left: Tim Kubel, Lars Eckenrode, and Robert Boskovic – was intact with Terique Mohammed inserted at left-back in place of Kyle Bjornethun.
Liam Fraser, Jon Bakero, and Jordan Hamilton had returned to Toronto for first team duty, so Noble Okello and Dante Campbell stepped in as the defensive twosome in the midfield. Further ahead were Endoh, Matt Srbely, and Malik Johnson and the formation was topped by Shaan Hundal. Aidan Daniels, who started in New York, was on the bench for Sunday.
At home and riding lengthy winning and unbeaten runs, Cincinnati came out flying, hoping to take advantage of the visitors, but Toronto were equal to the challenge, bending but not breaking through the opening 15 minutes.
Against the run of play, it was TFC II who took the lead in the 24th minute when Eckenrode made a strong run up field before dishing off to Okello. He in turn found Endoh in the space on the left with time to shoot. Sizing up his position, Endoh smashed a left-footer from 25 yards that curled beyond the reach of the keeper, Spencer Richey, to nestle into the far top corner.
The lead would be short-lived, however.
A foul allowed the ever-dangerous Emmanuel Ledesma to deliver a free-kick in the area in the 31st minute, where it was met by Lasso at the right-post for a simple headed finish past Patterson-Sewell.
Ledesma again would play provider in Cincinnati’s second goal, but Adi still had a lot of work to do to make the most of the chance. With his back to goal, Adi controlled on his chested and looped a touch over both himself and the defender to lose his marker and bear in on goal. He deftly stabbed a right-footed finish past the TFC II keeper two minutes into stoppage-time.
But, as Cincinnati had before, Toronto would respond nearly immediately with Johnson finding Endoh in space again, coming down the left-channel. Endoh faked and stepped inside, avoiding some half-hearted pressure, before sending a low, skipping effort towards goal. It took a mean bounce to elude Richey and find the bottom left-corner of the net.
Level after half-time, Rabasca went to his bench before the restart, bringing on Jordan Faria for Johnson.
Goal-scoring aside, it was an entertaining match, with both sides putting in a lot of physical play and the referee letting them go at it. Having establish what was and was not a foul, he was rather consistent, even if on another day more whistles would have been blown.
Playing in front of a massive crowd of 27 275, Toronto, as Chris Pozniak suggested, took every opportunity to slow down the match and take the fans out of it – two players, Johnson and Hundal, would be booked for delaying restarts, breaking up the rhythm of the game and frustrating both Cincinnati and their fans.
A teenager would make his debut for Toronto off the bench in the 67th minute with 17-year-old Jordan Perruzza coming on for Hundal. A memorable day for the big striker, making his USL debut in such a venue.
Endoh would complete his hat-trick in the 73rd minute with the pick of the lot.
Faria, the half-time addition, found Endoh in the middle with a pocket of space around the arc. Endoh hit a screamer of a right-footer into the top right-corner, again leaving Richey to only watch as it sailed beyond his reach.
Holding a 3-2 lead entering the final 15 minutes was always likely to be a dangerous prospect against a team like Cincinnati.
And in the 78th minute the home side would grab the equalizer through Bone after a neat one-two with Jimmy McLaughlin saw him surge into the box with a diagonal run from the right before guiding a finish into the Toronto net.
Perruzza nearly got on the end of a Faria ball in from the right in the 80th minute that would have made his first USL appearance even more momentous.
Daniels replaced Srbely in the 85th minute as Rabasca’s final roll of the dice. He had a few nice moments with strong runs up the park as Toronto sought to hit on the counter, but it was Bone again who sealed the result in the 88th minute with a header from close-range at the back-post after Ledesma, who registered three assists on the night and set a USL record (he has 15 on the season), sailed in an inviting ball.
With the clock ticking, Toronto could not find another and Cincinnati took the match 4-3.
An archive of the match is available on YouTube, as usual – and a rewatch of this one is highly-encouraged.
Toronto FC II now have a couple of days before the next hit the road with an away fixture at Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday, September 22 at Goodman Stadium – kickoff is set for 3 p.m.