TORONTO, CANADA—Union Omaha nearly won the league last year, while Toronto FC II didn’t get to kick a ball. On Wednesday, in their first-ever matchup, the two sides with the most differing experiences from the past year battled to a hard-fought 1-1 draw.
Coming off a loss against FC Tucson and a weekend draw at North Texas, TFC II were hoping to find their way back into the win column and avoid a three-match winless streak. For part of the evening, it looked like they may just do that, even against an Omaha side with tremendous depth.
Ahead of the match, TFC II got a slight relief, as one of Omaha’s starting defenders, Abdul Osumanu, was missing due to a legal situation. Despite his absence, Union Omaha put together a formidable defence against TFC II’s single-striker system.
Wednesday’s match was the last scheduled game for TFC II in Casa Grande, AZ as they get ready to relocate to the Orlando, FL area, much closer to the first team. Once in Florida, the team will stay there until it is plausible to return to Canada, which they hope is sometime in August.
For both sides, it’s good that no more games will be in Casa Grande, as the match took place under the bewildering 38-degree heat. Although Florida will not offer much respite, it will be more bearable than the desert.
The only downside? No more match officials in golf carts, one would presume.
TFC II head coach Mike Muñoz opted to go with what could be considered his best starling lineup, as defensive stalwart Nyall Higgins found his way back into the eleven alongside Luca Petrasso, Kevin Politz, and Steffen Yeates.
The choice for Petrasso at left-back over Themi Antonoglou was intriguing, as the two are some of the best players on the team. While they have both been on the pitch simultaneously as a winger/fullback combination, Muñoz opted to go with Kosi Thompson on the left side, a division that paid off.
The opening half was a cagey affair, with neither side having many looks at goal. However, Toronto showed that their training is paying off, linking passes throughout the half. The instance below, which ended with an unsuccessful scoring chance, is something right out of Pep Guardiola’s notebook and was one of several great passing plays from Muñoz’s men.
13’ - A chance for Goulbourne, and McLaughlin was right there too!— Ben Steiner (@BenSteiner00) June 3, 2021
Fantastic team play to create the chance, as TFC II linked 15 passes to sprout Goulbourne on a partial breakaway.
Love this football. pic.twitter.com/lNbpYqHAi6
For much of the half, let alone the match, Union Omaha dominated possession but could not penetrate TFC II’s backline. Anchored by Higgins, the Young Reds simply hunkered down in their defensive third to make sure no passes would find their way through. However, the unfortunate reality means that Omaha would get an abundance of corners, which came to haunt TFC II later.
TFC II nearly opened the scoring in the 39th minute, however, an Omaha defender cleared Yeates’ shot off the line.
While TFC II’s eloquent passing flowed in the first half, it finally paid off in the early minutes of the second frame. Although the 48th-minute goal did not come as a result of 15 passes, the seven that led to the eventual goal were cut from the same cloth.
Enric Bernat-Lunar did well to continue his run after passing the ball, and his cross into Thompson was near perfect. However, while this was a bright spot from the Spaniard, he gave the ball away six times, often when a simple pass was available. For Thompson, it is his first professional goal and nearly proved to be the winner.
Scoring the first goal was critical, as TFC II had yet to lose when scoring first, and Omaha had yet to win. If those two stats sound like an unstoppable force and an immovable object, that’s about right, and why the match ended in a draw.
Goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla was seldom tested behind TFC II’s backline, making confident yet straightforward grabs on crosses and aerial balls. For the most part, Omaha’s offensive onslaught was bearable until their ninth corner kick.
The tying goal came in the 73rd minute, and by that point, both teams were reeling in the desert heat. Luca Petrasso got a late, long-range chance for Toronto. Still, the match crawled through the final minutes to its final result.
With the draw, TFC II has a record of 1-1-2 through their first four games, good for five points and 10th in the 12-team league table. Union Omaha sits at 3-1-2 through six matches and are comfortably above the playoff bar in third place.
WTR Man of the Match: Kosi Thompson
With a goal, 28 successful passes and several great runs, Kosi Thompson earns his first WTR Man of the Match honours this season.
Thompson, an 18-year-old graduate of the TFC Academy, has established himself as one of the most exciting players on Toronto’s roster so far this season, and Wednesday was no exception. His finish on the goal was excellent, and even though it was the flashiest moment of the game, his runs along the wing were exceptional.
The North York, Ontario-born midfielder had a partial breakaway in the first 15 minutes, and on other chances, he played a critical part in the buildup. Defensively, Thompson had three interceptions, and while that is a strength of the TFC II roster, his efforts as an offensive-minded player were admirable. With such a crowded left side, Thompson is making decisions even more difficult for Muñoz and his coaching staff.
NEXT UP: Saturday at FC Tucson
While TFC II lost to FC Tucson a week ago, they will have a chance to avenge the result when they visit Kino North Stadium next week for the final “All-Texas Non-Derby,” on Saturday. The match kicks off at 10:00 pm ET on the USL League 1 YouTube channel and is Toronto’s last match before they head to Florida.