Toronto FC II started out the 2019 USL League One season with a strong 2-0 win over Orlando City B on Friday night at the Montverde Academy.
Luca Petrasso opened the scoring from the back-post on a corner kick at the start of the second half and Jordan Perruzza doubled the lead late with a deft chip over the goalkeeper.
Michael Rabasca trotted out a strong XI for the first match of the season, pulling in three players from the first team – Tsubasa Endoh, Julian Dunn, Griffin Dorsey – and handing debuts to four of the new signings: Jacob Shaffelburg, Eric Klenofsky, Patrick Bunk-Andersen, and Adolfo Ovalle.
Klenofsky was in goal with a back-four of, from right to left, Dante Campbell, Julian Dunn, Bunk-Andersen, and Terique Mohammed, in front of him. Exactly how TFC II lined up further afield is up for debate. The USL site has them in a 4-1-4-1, which is fair enough: Ovalle sitting deep in the middle with a line of four from right to left of Dorsey, Petrasso, Endoh, and Shaffelburg; Jordan Perruzza alone atop the formation.
Endoh would wear the captain’s armband.
This may take a while, but here’s where I’m at pic.twitter.com/BNXw303gxD— Squatting Vanney (@TFC_Memes) April 6, 2019
With the indication that TFC II would look a little more like the first team and the structure there replicated down through the academy, it is worth recalling that Greg Vanney often says that the modern game is less about rigid formations and more about roles and responsibilities given to players.
In practice, on the right Dorsey and Petrasso would swap regularly, overlapping each other and alternately surging in-field from that flank when space was available. On the left, Endoh would drift wide to find space, while Shaffelburg was almost a second-forward at times, getting in-field from that wide position.
Another first teamer, Noble Okello, would see action off the bench, as did 16-year-old Jayden Nelsen.
Toronto nearly took the lead after just 11 minutes when Shaffelburg was played down the left-side after some good work from Endoh in the middle of the park. The 19-year-old Nova Scotian ripped a wicked left-footed blast towards the short-side, but Orlando goalkeeper, Christian Herrera, was able to push it wide.
Shaffelburg was a spark plug all match, involved in many of the good things TFC II did on the night. In the 27th minute he singled-handedly created a second good scoring chance, bounding up-field from an Orlando corner, pressuring poor touches out of two defenders before squaring to a wide open Endoh, but the final ball was just beyond his reach.
Toronto would keep up the pressure and nearly found the breakthrough in the 31st minute through good work from Dorsey and Petrasso up the right side. A tidy bit of interchange saw Dorsey sprint in-field and into the Orlando box, where he was taken down by a sliding Emmanuel Hagan.
Endoh would take the penalty kick, but sent his right-footer curling over the bar.
Already a physical game, the match saw its first booking in the 34th minute when Orlando’s Hagan was shown a yellow card for scything down Shaffelburg, a bit of retaliation after the two had collided earlier.
That would prove costly in the opening minute of the second half when Hagan let a heavy touch get away from him, forcing him to take down Perruzza who had a clear path on goal. His second yellow would see the defender sent off and Orlando reduced to ten men.
Endoh would nearly redeem himself from the ensuing free-kick, stinging the palms of the keeper and Petrasso would give Toronto the lead in the 48th minute from the following corner, touching in off the underside of the bar with his left-foot at the back-post from Mohammed’s right-sided delivery.
With the lead, Rabasca would go to his bench, bringing on Okello for the goal-scorer in the 62nd minute and replacing Dorsey with Matt Srbely in the 66th minute.
Orlando, who had one decent look in the first half when Jordan Bender pounced on a loose ball to arc a quick shot just wide of the post, refused to go down quietly, finding a few decent looks in the second half.
Klenofsky in the Toronto goal had to come up with several key stops to keep the game in his side’s favour and could be seen urging his young teammates to calm it down in the 68th minute when another low drive fizzed by his post after some worrying moments.
Having survived that ten-minute lapse, Toronto would see several chances to pad their lead in the final 20 minutes of so – Endoh drew another big stop out of Herrera, who was solid all match, and Bunk-Andersen was denied from close range with a diving header.
And when TFC II made their final sub in the 82nd minute, replacing Shaffelburg with the teenager Nelson (to be fair, they’re mostly all teenagers), it looked as though the 16-year-old would be the one to provide it.
Minutes after coming up, Nelson drove through two defenders before squaring for Perruzza, but his finish caromed off the bar and stayed out.
Perruzza would get his goal in the 86th minute after Srbely poked a ball forward and the striker deftly left-footed a chip over the Orlando keeper – the 18-year-old forward hinted he was looking for such a chance earlier in the match when he tried to do the same, but was called offside and denied by the keeper anyways.
Nelson nearly added a third two minutes on when he again wove through a pair of defenders with ease before driving a shot towards the bottom corner, only for Herrera to deny him an even-more-impressive USL debut. He would see a booking in the 92nd minute for delaying a restart.
An archive of the match is available on YouTube – it is worth the watch, especially if one has not caught the hype on Shaffelburg and Nelson yet.
Up next for TFC II is FC Tucson on Saturday, April 13 at 9:30 p.m.