We’re still in the nascent stage of the preseason and score lines at this point don’t matter in the least, but there were positives to take away from Toronto FC’s 2-2 draw with the University of California, Irvine on Saturday night at Anteater Stadium.
Tsubasa Endoh recorded his first goal as member of Toronto FC and was the standout player in the first half. A second Endoh goal, made possible by a clever passing play by Jordan Hamilton and Raheem Edwards off the counterattack, was cancelled out due to an offside call, but Endoh’s play garnered praise from head coach Greg Vanney.
It’s extremely early days for the University of Maryland product, but his commitment to learning the defensive system Vanney wants to implement in 2016 is encouraging.
“He’s a very intelligent player and what we’re asking him to do defensively is different than what he was asked to do at the University of Maryland,” said Vanney following the 2-2 draw.
“It’s a learning curve for a lot of these guys, just adjusting their defending priorities and what they’re trying to do. From Friday to today he made some very good adjustments. We saw him pick some balls on the weak side where he read some plays and one of those is what sprung the counterattack that led to his goal. He’s got a wonderful feel for the game and from the attacking side he’s got a lot to offer.”
Marky Delgado threaded a well placed through ball that ricocheted off an Anteater defender and Endoh. The ensuing bounce went the rookie’s way.
“I don’t really remember what happened,” chuckled Endoh, before thinking back to the moment in the 17th minute.
“Luckily the ball came to my feet and it was a one v one situation with the goalkeeper so I just had to finish it.”
Jordan Hamilton added a second for the Reds via the penalty spot after Darius Madison, another rookie, was hauled down in the Anteater box in the 55th minute.
The Reds couldn’t hold on to that 2-0 lead, however. Vanney made wholesale changes to the lineup in the second half, inserting a number of young players and moving Chris Mannella from the midfield to right back.
UCI received a penalty of their own after a TFC hand ball in the box from a corner kick in the 61st minute and converted. The Anteaters would go on to tie the game in the 88th minute after a corner into the TFC box wasn’t dealt with. “
"The two goals we gave up were set pieces which isn’t something that’s been a focus through the first five days of camp,” said Vanney.
What has been the focus over the last few days has been the team’s defensive shape and structure. The early signs were promising for the gaffer.
“Our defensive shape was pretty good. It’s been steps, and [Friday] was the first day we put all eleven in the shape and how we want to defend. There was still some uncertainty for guys and some moments where we need to be sharper and cleaner but we’ll learn from that. There were also some moments where we were able to really lock them in and pick up balls in transition and turn them into some very good attacks.”
It was not an aesthetically pleasing affair, but few thought it would be. With three more games to play in California, including a date with the LA Galaxy next Saturday, this match was about setting a baseline for the coming days.
“It looked like a first game,” added Vanney. “We were a little slow with the ball movement and not as sharp as we will be as we start moving. I thought legs were also heavy. We’ve been pushing the guys hard since we’ve arrived in California. It was a good first outing for us and I was pleased we got to see a lot of the younger players.”
The Reds will return to the practice field on Sunday before taking on California State Fullerton at 6 PM PT on Monday.
17' Tsubasa Endoh
55' Jordan Hamilton
1st Half Lineup: Roberts; Bloom, Zavaleta, Williams, Morgan; Endoh, Delgado, Mannella, Osorio, Edwards; Hamilton.
2nd Half Lineup: Bono; Lovitz, Thomas, Taintor, Mannella; Chapman, Uccello, James; Babouli, Hamilton, Madison.
Join MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco and the rest of Toronto FC at BMO Field this season. 2016 Toronto FC Season Seats are on sale from $608 and up. In addition to Toronto FC Season Tickets, the Reds are currently on sale with TFC II Season Seats at $75.00 for TFC Season Seat Holders & $120.00 for non-TFC season seat holders. For More information head to TorontoFC.ca/tickets