those that have come before for Toronto FC II
Two substantial moves have dominated the offseason for Toronto FC II, as both a new league and a new location await.
After four seasons in USL, the club decided to make the switch over to the newly-formed USL League One and having spent much of last season wandering, their permanent home will now be at the BMO Training Ground in Downsview Park.
Having taken over the head coach position midway through 2018, Michael Rabasca returns for his first full season at the helm. He will lead TFC II through a 28-game schedule against the nine other teams in the league.
USL League One kicked off last weekend with four matches and though there are some familiar names about it will take a few weeks to get a true sense of the level of this competition.
Their first match is on Friday, April 6 against a reborn Orlando City B (more on that later), but Toronto fans will have to wait until May 24 for their home opener against FC Tucson.
Toronto begins the season with six road matches before that May date with a pair of visits to Florida, alongside trips to Tucson, Lansing, Madison, and Georgia.
In addition to those two external moves, TFC II has seen a fair bit of change on the roster.
A pair of homegrown players, Luca Uccello and Malik Johnson, left the club for Memphis 901 FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, respectively, as did some of the recent draft picks, Lars Eckenrode and Tim Kubel.
Kubel seems to have handed in his jersey for a striped referee’s kit, if instagram is to be believed, while Eckenrode will make his return to Toronto with the Richmond Kickers this season. So too will Kyle Bjornethun, representing Tucson.
Malyk Hamilton also left for new pastures, landing with Cavalry FC in the CPL, but goalkeepers Borja Angoitia and Angelo Cavalluzzo have yet to surface – WTR will keep an eye out.
Tsubasa Endoh and Noble Okello were signed to the first team; though they allow with several other first team players, including this year’s draft pick Griffin Dorsey will likely make the occasional appearance.
Add in that several key players from last season are out on loan – Robert Boskovic and Shaan Hundal with Aidan Daniels at Ottawa Fury FC in USL and Rocco Romeo with HB Koge in Denmark – and TFC II will look rather different on the pitch as well.
That said, there will be plenty of familiar faces.
Dante Campbell, Matt Srbely, Jordan Faria, Luca Petrasso, Terique Mohammed, Jelani Peters, and Gideon Waja are all returning, as is Jordan Perruzza who joined the side towards the end of last season after a spell in Italy.
Toronto has brought in a number of reinforcements that fall into two broad categories: homegrown promotions from the TFC Academy and more experienced internationals.
In the first category are a trio of promising wingers: Jacob Shaffelburg, 19, who dazzled in the Concacaf Champions League with the first team in February and teenagers Jayden Nelsen, 16, and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, 14.
A trio of midfielders – Mehdi Essoussi, 18, Ralph Priso, 16, and Luke Singh, 18 – joined as well, though Singh is out on loan at Brondby IK in Denmark.
From outside, Toronto has brought in a pair of goalkeepers, a trio of defenders, and two midfielders.
Both keepers, Eric Klenofsky, 24, and Yann Fillion, 23, return from overseas adventures, while in MLS SuperDraft pick Patrick Bunk-Andersen, 24, and Argentine Franco Ramos Mingo, 21, TFC II adds some nous in the middle of defense.
Midfielder Trevor Swartz, 23, is fresh out of Indiana University and Jesus West, 19, is a Panamanian youth international that spent preseason with the first team in California. Midfielder Adolfo Ovalle is a bit of a mix, with international and North American experience.
One of the many intriguing things to keep an eye on this season is how new TFC general manager Ali Curtis influences the side.
When he first arrived, Curtis was adamant that TFC II would be a particular focus of his attention.
“I’d like to get my hands wrapped around TFC II as well as the academy,” said Curtis in January. “It’s important to have a good grasp of what is going on at the youth level, at the academy level; within community. You have to take an integrated approach, especially a club of this size, how you build a roster.”
Granted, he has been a little more busy with other business since then, but after four tough years in USL, TFC II may be a very different beast this time around.
WTR will have more coverage ahead of the Friday’s season kickoff – including conversations with Rabasca, Vanney, Srbely, and Campbell, as well as a match preview. We’re still in the process of deciding exactly what the TFC II coverage will look like this year, if you have suggestions or recommendations on what readers would like to know, please leave a comment below.