Toronto FC II picked up a hard-fought point on the road last Saturday night in a 1-1 draw with FC Tucson.
Jamael Cox gave the hosts the lead in the 73rd minute when he beat Caleb Patterson-Sewell, capping off a quick attack following a turnover in midfield, but Jordan Hamilton got on the end of a Griffin Dorsey cross at the back-post in the 79th minute to find the equalizer, forcing his header across the goal-line.
With a raft of players in Texas for the Generation Adidas Cup, Michael Rabasca was forced into several changes to his starting XI.
Patterson-Sewell replaced Eric Klenofsky in goal, while Dante Campbell moved into Julian Dunn’s centre-back position alongside Patrick Bunk-Andersen. At full-back, two players made their debuts: Jesus West on the left and Trevor Swartz on the right, taking up spots vacated by Terique Mohammed and Campbell, respectively.
In midfield, Adolfo Ovalle continued his holding role, alongside Tsubasa Endoh and Matt Srbely, who replaced Luca Petrasso. And Hamilton slotted into Jordan Perruzza’s forward spot, flanked by Jacob Shaffelberg on the left and Dorsey on the right.
Toronto’s bench was comprised of just three players: a goalkeeper Nicholas Christoffersen, Alexander Krakowiak-Castro, and a not-fully-fit Gideon Waja. Rabasca did not make a single substitution on the night.
Endoh captained the side again, while former TFC II defender Kyle Bjornethun wore the armband for Tucson, showing a little love to one of his former teammates when his clearance caromed off Hamilton in a sensitive spot late in the match.
After a bit of a scrambled opening, that saw both sides exchange half-chances the match settled down, though the chances continued to go each way.
Dorsey tested the Tucson goalkeeper, Philip Ejimadu, in the 16th minute twisting up a defender to get off a shot thanks to a ball from Srbely and then sent a half-volley just over the bar from the ensuing corner kick.
Srbely’s playmaking was on display throughout, nearly playing a ball over the top into the path of Endoh in the 18th minute, but it skittered away from his teammate and into the goalkeeper’s range.
Crossed signals between Swartz and Patterson-Sewell nearly resulted in a goal when the defender’s touch back led to a weak shot from Luis Martinez in the 21st minute.
Shaffelberg was again lively, sprung down the flank by a long ball, only to see Austin Ledbetter do a good bit of defensive work, getting his body on Shaffelberg to slow his progress before getting in the needed clearance. The winger then combined neatly with Srbely on a one-two to get a ball into the middle, but it was cut out for another corner.
Dorsey too was impactful, perhaps the most dangerous he’s looked in his young career, taking the defender on to get off another effort in the 39th minute, but it was off-target. His performance earned him a spot in the Team of the Week.
On either side of half-time, Patterson-Sewell was forced to come up big to keep the match scoreless: pushing an effort by Delgado wide in the 43rd minute and then denying the striker at the back-post in the 52nd minute when a right-sided corner kick fell dangerously in the area.
Throughout the match, the home fans were in full voice, clearly audible throughout the broadcast chirping TFC II players. Dorsey in particular seemed to be singled out. It was unclear if related, but a banner reading ‘Cactus Pricks’ – an awesome name for a supporter’s group – was visible.
One of the most interesting elements to note throughout the match was how West, a teenage Panamanian full-back signed in the off-season, would tuck in-field regularly, getting involved centrally. The first team showed a similar tactic in their first Concacaf Champions League match against CA Independiente.
Like that showing, there were both good and bad aspects.
It provided an extra body in the midfield when in possession, but when pressured and caught, as in the 53rd minute, the back-line was fragmented and uncertain – that half-chance in particular was directed off-target.
Both full-backs showed some bite and savvy: Swartz saw a yellow in the 57th minute for a rough tackle on Delgado near the touch-line, while West put in a great one on the opposite flank that ended a Tucson attack cold and regained possession for Toronto.
As the match cross into the final half-hour, TFC II found a flurry of chances: a Shaffelberg ball in from the left required an alert collection from the Tucson keeper with Hamilton lurking; a sweeping move from left to right saw Endoh move in-field and pick out Dorsey wide, who flung in a cross, but Hamilton’s header was straight at the keeper; Dorsey himself would rip a left-footer off the post after some neat interplay between Hamilton and West found him open; and Srbely would drag a low shot wide of the far-post on a quick attack.
But in the 73rd minute, it was Tucson who took the lead through Cox. Ovalle was caught on the ball by pressure from Eti Tavares, finding fellow substitute Roy Abergil closer to goal. He in turn played wide to Cox, who slid a low left-footer through Patterson-Sewell to open the scoring.
Undeterred, Toronto would continue their approach, using width to great effect. Some tidy interplay between Dorsey and Endoh culminated in a cross that nearly resulted in an own-goal.
Their equalizer would come after just six minutes when a Dorsey cross from the right was hung up at the back-post in the 79th minute. Hamilton adroitly dropped off the back-line to get involved in the build up, neatly touching to Endoh before turning and hustling to get back in the area. Endoh played wide to Dorsey and Hamilton got just enough on his header to bank it in off Tucson defender Kody Wakasa.
But Patterson-Sewell would be called upon again to come up big and preserve the draw, denying Devyn Jambga in the 92nd minute when a cross found the substitute unmarked at the back-post.
The 1-1 draw sees TFC II on four points from two matches to start the young season. They have this weekend off, before getting back into action next Friday, April 26 when they travel to Michigan to face Lansing Ignite FC.
Elsewhere in the USL this weekend
Aidan Daniels, Robert Boskovic, and Shaan Hundal will be looking to help Ottawa Fury FC build off a 2-0 win at home last weekend over Loudon United, where Daniels and Hundal were late subs, when they visit Louisville City FC on Saturday night: kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Jon Bakero, who has not appeared in the last two matches, and Phoenix Rising FC will look to respond to a 1-0 midweek loss away to Austin Bold FC on Wednesday as they face the Tacoma Defiance on Saturday night: kickoff at 10:30 p.m.
Neither of Luca Uccello (Memphis 901 FC) and Malik Johnson (Tampa Bay Rowdies) are in action this weekend, nor did they feature in their side’s respective matches last round, when Memphis lost 2-0 away to Nashville SC with Uccello on the bench and Tampa drew 1-1 at home to Louisville.
All matches will be available at the USL Championship’s YouTube page.
Apologies for the delayed posting, was a hectic week