TORONTO, ON - Hugo Mbongue scored the only goal of the match to push Toronto FC II past Philadelphia Union II in the Eastern Conference semifinal of the MLS Next Pro playoffs.
The young forward was decisive early on, netting the winner just six minutes into the match for a 1-0 result at BMO Field on Saturday. Fresh off of signing his deal with the senior side, Mbongue was able to lead his team to victory with the early goal, punching a ticket to the MLS Next Pro Eastern Conference final.
“It was a great feeling scoring in front of all those fans, hopefully it’s not the last one,” Mbongue said when speaking to the media postgame.
“We’re happy about the victory but we know that the job’s not finished.”
TFC II head coach Gianni Cimini opted for his usual 5-4-1 formation on Saturday evening, with wide midfielders Jordan Perruzza and Paul Rothrock causing a lot of trouble for Philly early on.
Perruzza was the player who created the chance for Mbongue, as the two on-loan forwards connected for the opener. Perruzza ran down the left and sent a low cross to the 18-year-old. The forward slid to meet the ball, slotting it past Union goalkeeper Matthew Freese.
“I knew that if I made a run in behind their backline Jordan would find me, and I think I took the goal pretty well,” Mbongue stated.
Mbongue gives TFC II the early lead #TFCLive | @TorontoFCII pic.twitter.com/ZuK3qz9mhB— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) September 24, 2022
Perruzza, the all-time leading scorer for TFC II, would have a go himself from the top of the box in the 23rd minute, but Freese was able to get behind the effort.
Switching wings with Perruzza, Rothrock would get a good look five minutes later when he cut in from the left, but his shot was deflected out for a corner kick.
Perruzza was once more the danger man in the 36th minute when a penetrative pass from Steffen Yeates played him into space. The 6’1 forward then got the ball to Mbongue again, but this time, Freese rushed out of his goal to stop the shot.
Mbongue would get a great opportunity to bag a brace at the stroke of halftime. A set piece sent into the penalty area by Kobe Franklin was headed onto goal by Mbongue, but Freese made a big stop to ensure his side were only a goal down at the interval.
Another big break would fall Mbongue’s way following the break. Played through by Yeates, the forward shot on target, but Freese was equal to the effort, pushing it onto the crossbar and out of play.
Applying a bit more pressure in the second half, the Union thought they found their equalizer at the hour mark. Following a corner routine, Philly got the ball past Luka Gavran and into the Toronto net, but a handball called on Bajung Darboe ruled out the potential equalizer.
Philly would play on the front foot for the final 20 minutes of the contest but could not manage to unlock the Toronto defence.
✨ ✨#TFCLive pic.twitter.com/vjfUlSbWUM— Toronto FC II (@TorontoFCII) September 25, 2022
TFC II now advance to play Columbus Crew 2 in the Eastern Conference final. Columbus were 4-1 winners against Rochester New York FC in the first of the two East semifinals on Saturday, with former TFC II forward Jacen Russel-Rowe scoring a hat trick in the victory.
The 2022 MLS Next Pro golden boot winner tallied 21 goals in the MLS Next Pro regular season, scoring twice and assisting once in two matches against TFC II. The striker also assisted twice against the senior team in a 2-1 win over Toronto FC in June. The young forward will look to enact some revenge against the club that raised him at Historic Crew Stadium on October 1st when the top two seeds in the East battle it out for a spot in the 2022 MLS Next Pro Cup.