TORONTO, CANADA - If water washes away sorrows, Toronto FC II will hope that the torrential downpour in their 2-2 draw on Wednesday in Florida will help wash away their early-season struggles. While the Young Reds were unable to expel the demons of the win column, they put in a commendable shift, breaking several dismal streaks in the process.
Drawing 2-2 with Fort Lauderdale CF on Wednesday evening, TFC II broke several themes that had plagued them in the first six games of the season. Before Wednesday, Toronto had only once scored two goals in a game, all the way back in the season opener on May 22. Before Wednesday, TFC II had not scored later than the 58th minute.
As the sports cliche goes: “Records are meant to be broken.” While TFC II would like to snap their winless streak, a promising draw is a critical first step.
Heading into the match, the storylines rested on the shoulders of Fort Lauderdale’s Shaan Hundal, who came through the TFC Academy before spending three years with the Young Reds. As the leading goalscorer, he had the spotlight on him all night.
For Toronto, the day starting with a promising sign, as defender Luke Singh, who has burst onto the MLS scene, joined the USL side on loan. Singh, alongside fellow MLS loanees Ralph Priso and Jayden Nelson, all started on Wednesday and put in performances worthy of drawing first-team minutes.
Other than the MLS trio, the left-side combination of Luca Petrasso and Themi Antonoglou, with the addition of Antoni Carlini, reconnected and caused havoc up and down the wing all evening. Although neither got on the scoresheet, their performances showed just how important they are if TFC II is bound for success in 2021.
Head Coach Mike Munoz also opted to line his side up in a seldom-used 4-3-3 while also placing 34-year-old Caleb Patterson-Sewell between the sticks.
A frantic start
Within minutes of the first whistle, it was clear that this match would not be similar to Toronto’s other outings. Fort Lauderdale had the first chance of the game in the second minute, as Mitchell Curry got the better of an unsettled Luke Singh, only to fire his shot wide. However, Toronto got going soon after, with Petrasso barging through the FTLCF midfield to create a chance.
Although the opening minutes of the much frantically passed by, it came at a cost for the Inter Miami affiliate, as Abel Caputo and Harvey Neville were forced off with injury within the first 22 minutes. However, it turned into a blessing in disguise, as substitute Venton Evans opened the scoring for the home side within five minutes.
Evans’ opening goal was a product of a brilliant finish; however, Singh’s late attempt at a block left something to be desired. Fortunately, after that, TFC II’s backline returned to its usual stingy self.
In the dying minutes
As the match drew closer to halftime, it looked as though Munoz would have to address his group trailing by a goal. Garrett McLaughlin did not like that idea too much and finished a brilliant chance in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time.
While McLaughlin got the goal, his fourth of the season, he only finished off a precise passing setup from Toronto. It all started with an interception from Mehdi Essoussi, but then the positioning of Toronto’s attackers came into focus. Priso, seeing a potential interception, positioned himself in a hole in the defence, allowing him time and space to make a pass to Carlini, who made the key pass to create the one-on-one opportunity.
It is in moments and plays like these that TFC II looks promising. It has happened before, so the group is certainly capable of it. The question is, how can these spells of play happen more often? Either way, Toronto changed the team talk and eh mentality heading into the second half.
If Shaan Hundal facing his former team was not already a focus, he made it so in the 69th minute, scoring against the club that developed him, giving his new side the lead. With a simple finish off a cross, Hundal showed why he is a fantastic finisher in the six-yard box and why he is his club’s leading goalscorer.
To bring the match back to level terms, TFC II had to cast away some bad habits: They had to score after the 58th and score two goals in a game. Julian Altobelli and Nelson made sure those worries evaporated, drawing the match level.
While the final moments offered several chances for either side, neither could capitalize as the game drew to a close in the south Florida storm.
WTR Man of the Match: Ralph Priso
For a player who has gone up against some of the best attackers MLS has to offer, Ralph Priso put in a stellar shift against Fort Lauderdale. While his vision and position on Toronto’s first goal were integral to the match’s outcome, the teenager also offered a lot going forward. He made 34 successful passes and continually looked to stretch the play and open up the midfield. On the defensive side, he had seven recoveries while making four tackles.
With Toronto FC off for the international break and returning to match action on Saturday vs Orlando City, these two games have undoubtedly been beneficial to the talented homegrown player that is Ralph Priso.
NEXT: Fort Lauderdale CF - Saturday
The end of the match got a little chippy between these two sides, and the rivalry will continue to brew later this week, and the Young Reds host the return fixture between the two sides back at Osceola Heritage Park in Orlando. The kickoff is at 7:00 pm ET on the USL League 1 YouTube channel.