Toronto FC II are back in action on Wednesday night when they return home to welcome Ottawa Fury FC back to Lamport Stadium.
On the heels of a heavy defeat away to Bethlehem Steel FC, 4-0 on Saturday, Toronto will be eager to make amends, while also doing some damage to their provincial rivals.
Conceding early in each half, TFC II were constantly chasing the match in Pennsylvania and were it not for some fine defensive work from Robert Boskovic and a few big saves from Caleb Patterson-Sewell, it could have been worse.
Positive takeaways were few.
“No, not too many,” deadpanned Chris Pozniak. “Only that we’ve got a game coming up very shortly: a chance to redeem ourselves, have a positive reaction, in terms of work ethic, ownership in the team in how things go.”
Matt Srbely saw the defeat as, “A learning experience that we need to grow from. There are points in there that we need to work on: defending, be harder, compete more.”
With five matches left in the 2018 USL regular season, Toronto will be hoping to close out the year well as they brace for the unknown. Each off-season brings an amount of uncertainty, in terms of roster composition and such, but this year also sees the club preparing for a move to USL D3.
Little is confirmed about how the new tier will be come 2019. The announcements that the Richmond Kickers would be making the switch, that Orlando City B will be returning from hiatus to take part, and that the Rochester Rhinos will be reborn in 2020 added a few more details, but there are still plenty of unknowns.
Before all that, however, there are games to be played.
Up first is the third clash of the season with Ontario-rivals, Ottawa Fury FC.
Ottawa enter the match in possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on 41 points from 31 matches with a record of twelve wins, fourteen losses, and five draws.
Nikola Popovic has his side level on points with North Carolina FC, who have two games in hand, but ahead by dint of an additional win – the first tie-breaker. The Fury find themselves in the middle of a pack of five teams separated by just two points battling for the final two berths.
Ottawa has played the most games of the group and has just three left on the season, so every point is of vital importance. They will be up for the game, of that there is no doubt.
Especially seeing as they lost heavily themselves on the weekend, dropping a 4-0 result away to Louisville City FC on Saturday. That defeat ended a run of two-straight away wins, over Richmond, as well as their victory at Lamport earlier this month.
That last meeting was a memorable one, a back-and-forth 4-3 Fury win on September 6: Tony Taylor scored after four minutes and Cristian Portilla added a second before half-time, but a reinforced TFC II side scored twice in the 47th minute through Jon Bakero and Tsubasa Endoh. The sides exchanged goals over a five-minute spell with Kyle Bjornethun dinged for an own-goal and Jordan Hamilton converting from the penalty spot, but Adonijah Reid found the game-winner in the 78th minute.
The Fury also beat TFC II 3-0 earlier this season at the end of May in Ottawa.
The two have met five times in USL play with Ottawa winning three to Toronto’s one and a single draw. For the foreseeable future, this will be the last meeting between the sides as TFC II moves to D3 and the Fury announced they will be staying in USL rather than make the move to the Canadian Premier League.
Each side is familiar with the other.
“More of the same,” anticipated Pozniak of Ottawa. “Very good counterattacking team, good on set-pieces, battle-hardened, experienced team. A tough game again, hopefully not a shootout like the last time around.”
Srbely expects a, “very good match.”
“They’re a tough team, fast-paced. We can do some damage against them,” continued the midfielder. “If we compete and work hard defensively, we’ve shown that we can beat good teams.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. And given the last match, that this is potentially the final USL edition of the Ontario derby, as well as the penultimate home match of the season for TFC II, attendance is highly encouraged.
For those who haven’t made it to a match at Lamport it is an experience. A touch less glamourous than BMO Field, visible in the distance on the other side of the tracks, but still nestled neatly downtown, amidst the hustle and bustle of the King Street cars with the CN Tower looming.
Said Srbely: “Get some fans out there, it’s a good atmosphere.”
For those who cannot make it, the match will be streamed on YouTube:
Toronto have a chance to play spoilers to a foe in desperate need of points. Does that provide some added motivation?
“Not so much,” dismissed Pozniak. “We have to find motivation intrinsically to have good performances, individually and collectively. We shouldn’t be focused on anything other than our own performance.”
Srbely too didn’t see the spoiler role as wetting the appetite much, instead focusing on the bigger picture.
“You don’t want anybody, at any time, getting points out of you, especially at home,” stressed Srbely. “More of a pride thing; extra motivation for us.”