TORONTO, CANADA - Lava. Boiling water. Ontario summer weather. Those are three hot things, but you might as well add Toronto FC II to that list, as the Young Reds have now strung together a pair of wins for the first time since Oct. 2, 2019.
Last Saturday, TFC II won their first game in nearly a month, beating Fort Lauderdale CF 2-1, and on Wednesday, they added to that, tucking away South Georgia Tormenta, 3-1. Once again led by U20s, the Young Reds are hitting their stride and now sit in the league’s final playoff spot.
Toronto and Tormenta both had to sit tight in their dressing rooms for 90 minutes after the scheduled kickoff time, as they waited for South Florida’s inclement weather to pass, but the delay did not affect either team too much.
TFC II Head Coach Mike Munoz changed up his lineup, as he often has this season, replacing veteran goaltender Caleb Patterson-Sewell with Andreas Vaikla. At the same time, first-team loanees Luke Singh, Jayden Nelson and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty also saw their names on the team sheet.
When Toronto first moved to Florida from Arizona, the introduction of MLS players appeared problematic. Few of them had an understanding of the USL side’s tactics, and it nearly seemed as if TFC II had two sets of players out there. However, that has changed, and the MLS loanees are succeeding in Munoz’s system.
Tormenta, who had not lost in four games, started the match on the right foot, putting up 11shots before Toronto could get even one. In the opening 45 minutes, the visitors tested Vaikla a trio of times, forcing the Estonian netminder to come up big to keep TFC II’s hopes alive.
The best chance of the half came in the 18th minute when Tormenta’s Nick O’Callaghan hit the post with a diving header. Although neither side took too much impact from the delayed start, the first have passed by uneventfully, and for Toronto, uninspiringly.
In the end, though, it is not how you play the first half, but how you play the collective 90 minutes. Munoz must have given a good halftime talk to Toronto after a lacklustre 45 minutes because chaos, passion and pressure ensued in the second frame.
South Georgia had a couple of chances to start the half, but after an intriguing four-man substitution in the 56th minute, everything turned Toronto’s way. It was a puzzling move for Tormenta Head Coach Ian Cameron, who had garnered attention for his recent tactical decision that led Tormenta to four straight wins.
First Team Loanees Take Over
Potential Canadian international centre-back, Luke Singh, got things started for TFC II offensively in the 61st minute, scoring his second professional goal in a far different way than his first. While his first goal came from the run of play against the MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps, his second came from a well-placed free-kick against Tormenta.
Toronto opened the scoring on their first shot of the night, at a point when Tormenta was already up to 11 in that category. The goalkeeper could do nothing on Singh’s free-kick goal, as the 20-year-old defender perfectly curled it over the wall and into the goal. The opening goal will likely be in the running for the USL League 1 Goal of the Week.
Once the ball hit the back of Tormenta’s net once, TFC II smelled blood and capitalized on it. Just four minutes later, the Young Reds extended their lead through another MLS loanee, Jayden Nelson; however, it was the impressive leadup play that should excite fans.
Julian Altobelli’s initial long pass along the ground to spot Luca Petrasso should draw MLS eyes, especially coming from two players who could very well appear in the league in the next few seasons. Petrasso has created the most chances on Toronto this season and showed why he stands out in that category, as he found Nelson in the middle to create a high percentage scoring opportunity.
With that pass, Petrasso has created 18 chances through 10 games in 2021, ranking him 6th in the league in that category. Playing left-back for most of his appearances, he is a significant reason TFC II has scored goals.
The 71st and 72nd minutes nearly saw Toronto make TSN Sportscentre, as Mehdi Essoussi and Nelson came within inches from scoring from halfway. First, Essoussi saw Tormenta’s Avilez off his line and nearly looped the ball over him from a free-kick, only for the netminder to rush back and stop it. Next, Nelson practically tried the same along the ground, beating the keeper but not the woodwork.
As the MLS club’s lead slipped away in the final minutes against Nashville, it appeared Toronto might go the same way when Steffan Mueller finished a cross, putting Tormenta on the board in the 72nd minute. However, unlike the MLS side, Toronto put the game away.
Leading by the smallest of margins, Nelson took it upon himself to extend Toronto’s lead, pressuring the Tormenta goalkeeper into giving up the ball, creating a peasant empty-net chance for himself.
Sitting comfortably two goals ahead, Toronto got an 86th-minute scare when defender Kobe franklin got caught in late with a tackle, resulting in a red card. While the call may have been harsh, it forced the Young Reds to finish the match with 10 men.
In the end, it was a 34-minute match for Toronto, who got going after the 56th minute Tormenta swaps, but it was a game that proved what the team could do. Until Wednesday, TFC II had yet to score three goals in a game, had yet to win by a pair, and had not won consecutive matches.
For a night that started on a tough note with a thunderstorm, it ended on a high for TFC II, who find themselves nearing the end of a gruelling month and a half of soccer. After next Wednesday’s match against the same Tormenta team, TFC II is done with midweek clashes until Aug. 18, when they are likely back in Canada.
NEXT: Fort Lauderdale FC on Saturday
Toronto has four points through two matches with the Inter Miami affiliate in 2021 and will look to continue their newfound form when they visit the DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday. Supporters can watch the match on the USL League 1 YouTube channel at 7:30 pm ET.