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TFC II look to separate from the pack against Forward Madison

Only a handful of points separate third place and tenth place in USL League 1, and TFC II is right in the middle of it. They’ll look for an advantage on Wednesday in Wisconsin.

TORONTO, CANADA - Toronto FC II came home, and they played like it. While the first team has struggled to make BMO Field a fortress in MLS play, the Young Reds claimed four of six points at the BMO Training Ground and kept themselves in the thick of playoff conversations. With some newfound form and home cooking, they will try to bring the show on the road when they head to Wisconsin on Wednesday.

The Young Reds returned to Canada for their match on July 30 against Greenville Triumph and did not leave until this upcoming game, having only hosted the Richmond Kickers on August 6, a match they won 2-1. After a busy, two-matches per week start to the USL League 1 campaign, the return home and lightened schedule offers them a chance to regroup, heading into the second half of the season.

On Wednesday, Toronto treks down across the border to visit the most fun club in football, Forward Madison FC. While the biggest question is what kit Forward Madison will wear, and if the reversible one, which side, there is also a match to worry about.

For Toronto FC II, the match is of utmost importance. With the chapter of the first half of the season closed, there is all to play for in the second half, and coming off a rest, gaining three points is a near requirement.

The playoff picture in USL League 1 is incredibly tight. A mere three points separate third-place Greenville and 10th place Richmond. Toronto has 23 points and sits seventh after a tiebreaker, while Forward Madison is not far behind with 22 points and two games in hand.

To say that Wednesday evening’s clash is important would be an understatement.

Supporters and curious onlookers can tune into the match on the USL League 1 YouTube channel at 8:00 pm ET.

Goalscoring woes and adaptations

With the rest time and a crucial three points, Toronto Head Coach Mike Muñoz wil likely start his first-choice team, and the player he presumes can give him the best result. Fortunately for him and TFC II, the team is incredibly deep and has used every part of the roster in 2021.

Between the sticks, TFC II is in good hands. With 35-year-old player-coach Caleb Patterson-Sewell, the Young Reds have a reliable veteran presence at the back. At the same time, when 24-year-old Andreas Vaikla is in goal, they have an experienced Estonian international.

For Wednesday’s match, expect to see Vaikla back in net. He has not played in two games, and Muñoz tends to switch his goalkeepers after each pair of games. However, regardless of who starts, TFC II has some of the best goalkeepers in USL League 1.

Since the second week of the season, Luca Petrasso has been the leading chance creator for Toronto FC II. While creating chances from the left-back position might not be the best option for goalscoring prowess, it has worked thus far, with the homegrown player creating 27 chances through 17 appearances. Muñoz will look for Petrasso to stretch his excellent form in Wisconsin, whether at left-back or in an advanced position.

Despite sitting fifth in league scoring, striker Garret McLaughlin is in the midst of a dry spell. Averaging 0.5 goals per game, he is an exceptional striker at the USL League 1 level but has not scored since June 26, when he finished a penalty against Fort Lauderdale CF. While his eight goals came before July, he still creates chances and draws attention, leaving Toronto’s other attacking options to take aim at the goal.

At the beginning of the season, the Petrasso creation and McLaughlin goalscoring were the keys for Toronto, but opponents began to shut those two down as the campaign matured. Now, they are being tested, and we will soon see whether they can overcome the challenges of the best defensive players in the league.

Forward Madison FC

Aside from colourful kit designs, Forward Madison is a decent football club in 2021. They picked up their first win in five games last time out when they defeated South Georgia Tormenta 2-1 at home, and they will attempt to link wins together when welcoming the Torontonians.

Forward Madison’s struggles have mainly come on the road this season, which won’t help TFC II. The Flamingos have only dropped points in two of six home games so far this season and only have one defeat (4-1-1).

Coming off a USL League 1 Team of the Week nomination, Gustavo Fernandez is a player to keep an eye on in the blue and pink. He notched an assist and two key passes in the Flamingos’ victory over South Georgia and will look to continue linking up with chance creation leader Aaron Molloy against Toronto.

Prediction: Forward Madison 2-1 Toronto FC II