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‘Really Positive’: TFC II in high spirits after season-opening win

Hear from head coach Michael Rabasca, Jacob Shaffelburg, and Fito Ovalle midweek after the 2-0 win over Orlando City B on topics ranging from Perruzza’s chip, Jayden Nelsen, the formation, the experienced spine, and more

USL League One Photo - Toronto FC II goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky begins a move by rolling a ball out to a teammate in their season-opening 2-0 win over Orlando City B on Friday night
TFC II goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky rolls a ball out to a teammate on Friday in Orlando
Orlando City B

Toronto FC II began their season with a solid 2-0 win over ten-man Orlando City B last Friday. Luca Petrasso, 18, scored the first goal, earning himself a spot in the Team of the Week, and Jordan Perruzza, 18, added the second with a delicious chip, a goal that was nominated and won Goal of the Week.

“It’s a good way to start the season,” smiled Michael Rabasca on Wednesday. “It’s also what we would like every week. The team, from the start of preseason to now, continues to progress, continues to do the things we worked on in practice. That’s really positive.”

“We haven’t taken a step back or been stagnant,” continued Rabasca. “I’m really pleased with the players from that standpoint. The score wasn’t really indicative of how different we were from Orlando. We can take a lot of positives and move forward this week.”

Though held off the scoresheet, Shaffelburg, 19, was in the middle of a lot of the good things Toronto did before coming off in the 82nd minute for Jayden Nelson, the 16-year-old who nearly made an instant impact.

“We played really well, could have won by a lot more, but got the first match nerves out of the way, especially for me,” said Shaffelburg. “I missed a few opportunities that any other day I would finish, but to get the first game out of the way and get the three points was a great result for us.”

Nerves?

“First game of the season I’m usually nervous like that,” smiled Shaffelburg. “Just certain things that are more comfortable throughout the season.”

Rabasca was pleased with both wingers, but was adamant that both “have more to give.”

“Jacob has the ability to read and run and break lines, do some special things,” outlined Rabasca. “Jayden has a nice way on the ball, a really deceptive quality.”

“The challenge for them will be that they’re going to have to anticipate that teams are going to adjust to them. That will be their test to becoming a pro,” explained Rabasca. “Speed is one dimension, the ability to play with speed, but not just run, will be an important piece.”

As noted in the recap, there was a minor spell around the hour mark where Orlando seemed to be on the front foot, despite losing a player to a second yellow card.

It was in that moment in particular that the experienced spine of goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky, 24, defender Patrick Bunk-Andersen, 24, and Adolfo ‘Fito’ Ovalle, 21, provided some key leadership and a calming influence to see the team out of choppy waters.

“We have seen throughout preseason that Eric has a nice habit of making timely saves. And we then have responded well to that,” said Rabasca. “When you’re up 1-0 it’s nice to have someone who makes that save to keep score there. It’s our job to respond. He’s been a leader, has a nice understanding of his teammates – whether younger or not – and has a great way with them.”

“Patrick has been a fantastic surprise in the preseason,” continued Rabasca. “His ability to pass out of the back is exceptional, he’s versatile – can play as the right or left centre-back, and we’re really pleased with the way he has responded to our environment. Today he is spending a bit of time [training] with the first team.”

USL League One Photo - Toronto FC II’s defender, Patrick Bunk-Andersen, get a headed clearance on a ball against Orlando City B in a 2-0 road win to open the 2019 season
TFC II’s Patrick Bunk-Andersen rises up to get his head on a ball against Orlando City B in the season opener
Orlando City B

“Adolfo... he’s good,” beamed the coach. “I was hoping he would put the league on notice this week, he has that type of ability. He played well, but he is even better than that. I’m looking forward to a few adjustments that we went through today, hoping against Tucson that will come out.”

WTR will have a deeper look at Ovalle in the coming days.

Petrasso’s goal was clinical, arriving at the back-post on a corner kick to get the needed touch.

Making the most of set-pieces, those pivotal moments that can decide matches, is so crucial in the professional game. As too is making the most of half-chances and mistakes from the opposition. Given a split second to lift his head, Perruzza’s chip did exactly that.

“I’ve done that before, I know the feeling,” grinned Shaffelburg. “So when I saw it come off, it’s great, especially for a striker who didn’t get the best opportunities in the first half. To keep working, keep grinding throughout the whole game to finally get his opportunity to finish was great to see. I’m happy for him.”

Again, in the recap it was noted that the USL League One site had the TFC II formation listed as a 4-1-4-1, but Rabasca indicated they think of it more like a 4-3-3, though, as always, with the proviso that players, roles, and relationships is more important than static theoretical positions and that any formation these days looks very different in and out of possession.

“Three midfielders, three forwards in specific positions,” outlined Rabasca. “There can be some slight adjustments, but by and large, it’s been identified as not only a system that is attractive football, but can develop the most players possible.”

Win or not, TFC II and Rabasca will stick to their method.

“Every week there is a plan. We don’t deviate too much from what we want to see from our players by the end of the year,” reiterated Rabasca. “We want them to play for the first team; to do that they each have some individual needs. The individual is first and foremost and within that the team comes along.”

“We’re going to work on our attack, our defending, our transitions,” hinted Rabasca. “Always within the scheme of our plan.”

The first match under the belt, nerves out of the way, and with three points in tow, attention turns to FC Tucson and Saturday night.

“We had a long preseason, put in a lot of work,” said Fito Ovalle. “We didn’t want to leave Orlando without the three points. It was important to start on the right foot, now we’re focused on the next game.”