TORONTO, CANADA - What does familiarity breed? Does it breed contempt, maybe respect? For Toronto FC II and Fort Lauderdale CF, familiarity breeds a fierce rivalry, which resumes Saturday evening in Kissimmee, Florida.
Coming off of a hard-fought 2-2 draw in Fort Lauderdale, the two sides meet up again for the second of three matchups in June. Hosted by Toronto in Florida, fans can watch the match at 7:00 pm ET on the USL League 1 YouTube channel.
The midweek clash between the two sides was one of Toronto’s strongest performances of the season. The Young Reds eliminated some tendencies that had plagued them and put in a dynamic shift worthy of garnering MLS eyes. Before Wednesday, TFC II had yet to score later than the 58th minute and had only scored two goals in a match on opening day.
While Toronto FC II played well, they were unable to find their way back into the win column, a result that has eluded them for the last seven games. Although there is still a ways to go until matching their longest winless streak ever, the Mike Muñoz led team will want the streak to end on Saturday.
85’ Things are getting quite chippy now in Florida.— Ben Steiner (@BenSteiner00) June 17, 2021
These teams play 2 more games against each other before June 27. pic.twitter.com/jsWh6w59Nd
The final minutes of the Wednesday affair featured several chances, but more intriguingly, lots of chippiness from both sides. The referee awarded five yellow cards after the 51st minute on Wednesday, including one on an altercation between Toronto’s Dante Campbell and FTLCF’s Ignacio Poplawski. With blood boiling at the end of Wednesday’s match, fireworks could be in the cards on Saturday.
With two games each week from kickoff to the end of June, Mike Muñoz has made sure to rotate his side in each game. From goalkeeper to striker, there are always changes to be found in the first-year manager’s lineups.
TFC II started a near full-strength lineup on Wednesday. On quality, it was probably their best team on paper this season. With MLS loanees Ralph Priso, Jayden Nelson and Luke Singh on the team sheet, the Young Reds had quality to spare.
Jayden Nelson ties things up for TFC II in the 81st minute pic.twitter.com/oebCroZOlL— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) June 17, 2021
In the second match, however, rotation is likely to enter the fold once again. In net, 34-year-old player/coach Caleb Patterson-Sewell will undoubtedly swap out for one of Toronto’s trio of goaltenders.
New signing and TFC Academy graduate Brogan Engbers featured on the bench for the first time in 2021 on Wednesday, so he could be poised to start. If not Engbers, both Estonian international Andreas Vaikla and TFC loanee Kevin Silva have been strong through their appearances.
The backline rotation largely depends on the status of the MLS contracted players. If Singh is still with the Young Reds, he will likely start. If not, expect to see Dante Campbell start his first match of the season, alongside a combination of Talen Maples, Luca Petrasso, Kobi Thompson and Kevin Politz.
In the midfield, the left-side combination of Themi Antonoglou and Petrasso has been fantastic this season, with the two creating the most chances on the team. They both played exceptionally well on Wednesday, so if they are rested, they will play.
Whoever is on the pitch for Toronto will be determined to push the club back into the win column for the first time in over a month. Any player will be forced to perform on Saturday with the chippiness at play and a brewing rivalry in the mix.
Fort Lauderdale CF
Injuries struck early on Wednesday for Fort Lauderdale, but that did not matter for the side led by Darren Powell. Instead, early substitute Venton Evans quickly made his presence felt, scoring and assisting in his 66 minutes.
“We’re going to play a very talented Toronto team. I thought it was a very exciting game [on Wednesday]. With the quick turnaround, we’re just going to make sure we tweak a few things and make sure the guys are prepared and as fresh as possible,” said Powell to Inter Miami’s website.
Head Coach Darren Powell discusses:— Fort Lauderdale CF (@FTLauderdaleCF) June 18, 2021
Wednesday nights match vs Toronto FC II & how he is preparing his team for another matchup vs Toronto tomorrow night pic.twitter.com/Hdn2z8Mt4c
The visiting team, FTLCF, is getting an MLS loaned player of their own in Felipe Valencia, who joins the USL side for the first time this season. At 16-years-old, Valencia made history in 2020, becoming the youngest USL goalscorer at just 15 years, five months and 18 days. His tally in 2020 broke the record set by former Whitecaps FC 2 midfielder Alphonso Davies, who has gone on to star for the Canadian men’s national team.
While Toronto will come out with immense effort on Saturday, there is no reason to expect anything different from a Fort Lauderdale side finally getting a taste of life above the playoff bar.
PREDICTION: 2-1 win for Toronto