TORONTO, CANADA - Soccer is a game of fine lines. Whether an unexpected save or an astounding goal, any slight movement can change a match. This week, Toronto FC II’s destiny came down to those fine lines, as the Young Reds could not pick up any points, falling twice to South Georgia Tormenta 1-0.
Wednesday’s match at ‘home’ in Florida offered TFC II a chance to grab a win while opening a new stadium. Meanwhile, Sunday proved to be a critical match to cut short an already lengthy winless streak. Unfortunately for Toronto, neither happened, falling similarly in both games.
Sunday’s loss also stretches Toronto’s winless streak to six games, matching their most prolonged dry spell of 2019.
Before kickoff on Sunday, TFC loaned highly-touted youngster Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty to their USL side, hoping to get him some minutes and give the Young Reds a push towards the win column. He became the fourth loaned player after Kevin Silva, Jayden Nelson and Ralph Priso all got time in USL on Wednesday. Marshall-Rutty started on Sunday, while Silva was between the sticks; however, Priso and Nelson were not on the matchday roster.
Aside from the MLS names in the team sheet, TFC II Head Coach Mike Munoz made other adjustments to his lineup. Up front, Steffen Yeates drew out for Julian Altobelli, who lined up alongside leading goalscorer Garrett McLaughlin as forwards. At the back, Antony Curic and Nyall Higgins offered a breath of fresh air at centreback. Themi Antonoglou started the match on the bench, while left-back and leading chance creator Luca Petrasso found his way into the starting eleven.
With points critical for Toronto, the match began with a much-needed intensity. In just the first minute, McLaughlin had an opportunity from seven yards away, only for a Tormenta defender to make a last-ditch block. Alas, that was Toronto’s best chance until late in the second half.
After the early chance, the home side took over the match. Marco Micaletto, who scored in Wednesday’s tilt, began to pull strings in the midfield and take some chances himself. Toronto was fooled by a set-piece in the 22nd minute, allowing the 2020 USL All-Star to take a shot from just inside the 18-yard box, forcing a crucial block from Kosi Thompson.
The Young Reds were unable to contain Micaletto throughout the first half, as he had another chance in the 36th minute, firing a volley into the chest of Kevin Silva. While Micaletto put in an above-average performance, he was not the sole reason for success. He worked well as a central figure in Tormenta’s peculiar 3-6-1 setup, acting as a link between the very fluid and congested midfield.
Tormenta broke the deadlock in the 40th minute thanks to Kobe Perez’s strike that sailed into the top corner of the net, giving TFC II goalkeeper Kevin Silva no chance at making a stop. While Silva escapes blame, the backline of Toronto does not. After a long pass through the entire midfield got to the Tormenta winger, Rohan Goulbourne rushed to the wing, leaving Perez open to make a run up the middle. Once Goulbourne realized that Higgins already marked the winger, he was caught out and forced to run the wrong way to catch up with the play.
While it was a small mistake, it was a fine line and a small, split-second decision that cost Toronto a positive result.
The second half saw the Young Reds create a few more chances, although not shot from very likely scoring positions. The best chance of the second half came from Goulbourne’s left foot in the 54th minute, as he tested goalkeeper Pablo Jarra from long range. Antonio Carlini had a similar chance in stoppage time, but neither could get by the league’s leader in saves made.
By the end of the night, Tormenta had simply outplayed Toronto in most areas. The South Georgians had twice the amount of shots, 18, compared to Toronto’s nine. They made more tackles and passed at a higher percentage, all while neutralizing the talents in Petrasso and Marshall-Rutty. It may have been ‘Superhero Night’ at Erik Russel Park, but the only Superheros found were in Tormenta pink and blue.
WTR Man of the Match: Garrett McLaughlin
After starting the season with three goals in as many games, the goal tally has slowed down for MacLaughlin; however, there is no doubt that he is continuing to make changes for himself. While Toronto’s midfield is often unable to get the ball to him, he puts himself in good positions to find chances.
Of Toronto’s 9 shots on Sunday, the former Houston Dynamo MLS SuperDraft pick had four of them. McLaughlin is a player who can finish when he gets good opportunities, but he has been left alone in the final third too often over the last few games.
NEXT: Wednesday vs CF Fort Lauderdale
For the month of June, Toronto is only playing two clubs: South Georgia and Fort Lauderdale. While the schedule can potentially be monotonous, the familiarity with opponents is bound to create some heated matches. CF Fort Lauderdale is the USL affiliate for MLS’s Inter Miami and plays out of the same stadium. For tacticians wanting to dive deeper into Toronto’s struggles, this is a perfect opportunity, as the camera angle from DRV PNK Stadium offers an aerial view of the field.
TFC II kick-off against their Florida foes at 7:30 pm ET on the USL League 1 YouTube channel.