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Riverhounds Rabbi Scouting Report: TFCII is young and winless

Riverhounds Rabbi provides a scouting report of Toronto FC II

Riverhounds Rabbi Scouting Report: TFCII is young and winless

Toronto FC’s top club are stacked with stars like Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore, and the reds have started 2018 with wins over two of the Western hemisphere’s best football teams in UNAL Tigres and Club America.

Their USL team, however, is a different story.

TFCII’s lineup is young, raw, and a little shaky. They finished 2017 bottom of the USL’s Eastern Conference with just 6 wins and a -27 goals differential, and their start to 2018 hasn’t been much better. And the turf at BMO Field was so chewed up by TFC’s midweek clash with Club America, the match was relocated to Pittsburgh’s Highmark Stadium, giving the Riverhounds a home field advantage they did not expect. Take all those factors together, and the conditions for the Riverhounds to get off the schneid, score some goals, and snag three points could not be better than this Saturday.

Formation and Tactics

Toronto II played their last match on March 24 in a flat 4-4-2 against the Charlotte Independence’s 4-2-3-1. Charlotte packed the midfield with bodies, giving TFCII no chance to work through the middle or play short, so the Reds mainly tried to press in the corners for turnovers and work the ball across field with long passes in, then out to the wings. Offensively, nothing really worked for them, although they produced a few dangerous moments off of crosses or dead balls from right midfielder Luca Uccello. Overall, Toronto had 11 shots on the night but only one shot on target, as their inability to penetrate left them firing mostly hopeful balls from 25 yards out and beyond, to no avail. I imagine head coach Laurent Guyot will have worked with his club on patience and penetration in the two weeks since they last saw action.

Defensively, there were weaknesses aplenty. The midfield tended to get pulled out of shape in transition and had difficulties to recover, giving Charlotte’s attack space to work and numbers in the center of the pitch. The back four were beaten repeatedly, both on the dribble and with crosses from the left side into the box. Only the solid reactions of Toronto keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell kept the game reasonably close.

Personnel

Up top the striker tandem of Ben Spencer and Jordan Hamilton both have MLS experience and physical ability to do some damage if they get a chance on the ball, but in TFC’s week 2 match, their opponents smothered the two forwards completely.

After that, this team is made up primarily of youth academy products still too young to buy beer legally, at least in the Pittsburgh area. Starters Robert Boskavic, Matthew Srabely, Aiden Daniels, Malik Johnson, and Rocco Romeo are all under the age of 20. Their inexperience was evident in their last match against Charlotte, but all of them are certainly technical and capable players, if a bit out of sync with each other and unsure of how to create as a group.

The back four were pretty poor against Charlotte. Right back Tim Kubel was absolutely lost at sea on this play as he fails to disrupt the long pass or close off the pass out to the wing, and then he lets Charlotte midfielder Jorge Herrera absolutely turn him inside out as the Independence tallied their first goal.

From this point on, Charlotte ran a lot of their attack down Toronto’s right side, and with good reason. Perhaps Bob Lilley’s men will do the same.\

Toronto conceded a second goal on a play where the defense pretty much fell asleep. A loose ball began rolling out of bounds in the 43rd minute, and TFC’s defenders relaxed, only to have Charlotte’s Alex Martinez race in, cross a perfect ball into the box, and watch striker Caleb Calvert finish things off while his defenders awoke, suddenly startled, but too late.

Not a great moment for Robert Boskovic or Kyle Bjornethun. The entire TFCII backline will need a better showing against the Riverhounds in order to keep the black and yellow off the scoreboard for yet a third straight game.

Form

Toronto lost 2-0 to Charlotte in week 2, and lost 2-1 to NYRBII in week 1 of the USL season, and had a bye in week 3.

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

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