TORONTO, CANADA - If mimicking the MLS side is a part of Toronto FC II’s plan, they certainly did that in Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Fort Lauderdale CF. However, the process and play by the Young Reds were more promising than their MLS counterparts, despite slipping up on a chance to make history.
In TFC’s MLS loss to FC Cincinnati, the Reds conceded in the first 10 minutes, and against Nashville midweek, they conceded in the last five. On Saturday, TFC II fit both of those patterns and saw their two-match winning streak evaporate.
Coming into their third match against Fort Lauderdale and third match of the week, TFC II was unrested coming into the game, despite being in good form. FTLCF had only played one game in the last week, a loss to TFC II, and had a whole week to revise their plans for Saturday’s match.
While TFC II was in top form heading into the game, they had been led by MLS loanees, some of whom were called up by Chris Armas and the MLS club. Jayden Nelson, who scored two goals against South Georgia on Wednesday, graced the MLS bench, joined by Ralph Priso and Kevin Silva. Without their recent play drivers, TFC II was forced to make changes that were far from ideal.
As the Young Reds approach the end of their gruelling 35 days of double match weeks, Mike Muñoz adjusted his squad once again. Although the end is near, rest and recovery are still the primary focus for one more week.
Even with fatigue, roster shakeups, and facing a side with time to prepare, TFC II deserved to win the match; they were better over 90 minutes.
As expected, Estonian-Canadian Andreas Vaikla started between the sticks for the second straight game, and he ended up doing very well despite the loss, making seven stops. Without Kobe Franklin, Rohan Goulbourne started at right-back, while Luka Singh drew out for Nyal Higgins. The Toronto defence stood strong through the night to limit the Inter Miami affiliate to just nine shots on target.
Themi Antonoglou, one of the team’s best chance creators, drew back into the lineup in left midfield after sitting out a pair of games. At the same time, early-season stalwart Steffen Yeates regained his starting lineup spot alongside Mehdi Essousi in the middle. Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, the lone MLS loanee, started on the right.
Up front, Garrett McLaughlin found himself back in the starting lineup, alongside Julian Altobelli. Through the match, the two showed that they can be a dynamic strike force, as McLaughlin had eight shots and his goal from the spot.
The night did not begin how TFC II would have hoped, conceding in the ninth minute, when Josh Penn cut inside and around Toronto’s Luca Petrasso to put the home side in front. Although Fort Lauderdale has not had much success with TFC II, it was Penn’s second goal against the Young Reds through three games.
TFC II took a little while to settle into the match without their play-driving MLS players but began to click in the 26th minute, as Goulbourne spotted Altobelli’s run behind the defenders, only for the former York 9 man to fire the shot wide. Late in the first half, McLaughlin had a chance off a corner kick, flicking the ball just off the crossbar.
With the attack finally flowing and McLaughlin looking to regain his goalscoring prowess, TFC II went into half-time with momentum on their side. McLaughlin headed a ball towards goal, but FTLCF’s Castanheira stopped it. While the headed stop was one of the critical moments of the match, it was far from the only good save that Castanheira made on a night that TFC II fired 25 shots.
A familiar spot for Garrett ..— Toronto FC II (@TorontoFCII) June 27, 2021
….with a usual result.
TFC II finally found their breakthrough in the 66th minute, with McLaughlin scoring the goal he was looking for, with a smooth-struck penalty to tie the game at one.
Once the match was level, the Toronto attack seemed destined to score. McLaughlin had several other scoring opportunities. The Young Reds nearly got the go-ahead goal in the 81st minute from Marshall-Rutty’s backheel, but the ball dribbled wide of the near post.
For a TFC II team in good form, a draw would have been fine. Still, that did not suit FTLCF forward Mitch Curry, who won the match in the 88th minute to steal all three points for the home side. Although the late loss is disappointing, it showed that Fort Lauderdale and Toronto are very familiar sides and could set the stage for a critical playoff qualifying game at the BMO Training Ground in October.
With the result, TFC II slip behind Forward Madison and New England Revolution II for the final playoff spot; however, they are right in the mix for the post-season. With three points claimed, Fort Lauderdale comfortably sits fourth in the league among the playoff qualifiers.
WTR Man of the Match: Garrett McLaughlin
Without the abundance of MLS loan players to help, the weight fell back on Garrett McLaughlin’s shoulders to drive Toronto’s offence. Although he could only get a goal from the spot, the former Houston Dynamo SuperDraft selection was in the right place at the right time and could have had several goals with just a bit of luck.
He is the team’s leading goalscorer with five goals through 11 matches and is the clear star for when Nelson is not in the squad. Moving forward, the attacking pair of him and Altobelli could be something to turn to when TFC II needs chances.
Next: South Georgia Tormenta - Wednesday
Are you getting bored of Southeastern American sides yet? Well, you’re in luck. The constant competition with FTLCF and South Georgia is coming to a close on Wednesday as TFC II prepares to potentially return to Toronto. Their schedule is all on the road until July 30, when they are pencilled in to play at Downsview Park.