Toronto FC won their second preseason game in a row, defeating the Ventura County Fusion 3-0 on Wednesday night at Anteater Stadium.
The Reds jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute when Benoit Cheyrou beat the offside trap with a perfectly weighted ball to find Sebastian Giovinco streaking in behind the defence. The Atomic Ant made no mistake on the breakaway, causing some, including your correspondent, to wonder if Anteater Stadium should be renamed.
Giovinco did his thing, but the play of two players that dealt with tough 2015 seasons stood out in the third scrimmage played by the Reds in Southern California.
Jordan Hamilton will be the first to admit he didn’t have the season he wanted last year, but he’s been given a legitimate chance to stick with the first team by Greg Vanney and his coaching staff. Hamilton added the game’s second goal in the 52nd minute, taking a pass from Mo Babouli and sliding the ball past the Fusion keeper. The 19-year-old capitalized on a defensive error for his second goal of the game to make it 3-0 just before full time.
“Last year was a frustrating year for me, but fortunately this is a new year and a fresh start,” said Hamilton following the match.
“I’m lucky enough to have been given an opportunity so I have to take it.”
Hamilton knows his job is to score goals, but his effectiveness leading the line defensively will also determine whether he will get a chance to earn first team minutes.
"I’ve developed my game defensively,” Hamilton continued. “This year it’s more about being tactically aware than just work rate. It’s working smart rather than working hard and saving my energy for the offensive aspect of the game.”
Daniel Lovitz battled through an injury plagued campaign in 2015. It was a season that saw Lovitz relegated to the bench when he was healthy. The Elon alum played the most minutes of any Toronto FC player on Wednesday night, putting in a 62 minute shift at left back.
He’s one of the fittest players on the team, and it’s showed throughout the early stages of the preseason.
“It’s nice to get as much time as possible and get used to playing with different guys as a group,” said Lovitz. “It’s been a progression each time we’ve gone out and I think we’ve done very well.”
The structure and shape that has been implemented by Vanney suits Lovitz’s game well.
“I like how aggressive we can be as outside players and dictate what we give away and be able to step to guys. It makes defending fun which is always great.”
Lovitz battled through a foot injury in 2015, and though he’s fully fit now, the depth chart is crowded across the board. That may be the case, but that reality is not deterring the 24-year-old from trying to make the decision as hard as possible for the coaching staff.
“You always want to play,” Lovitz continued. "Last year wasn’t necessarily the easiest for me and I have to stay healthy a little bit more. We have a very deep team in some of the spots I’m trying to play so it’s just about biding your time and being persistent. The coaches know what I’m capable of, I know what I’m capable of and I’ll be there when the time comes. If that time is now I’m ready.”
The Reds will wrap up the Southern California portion of the preseason with a closed door scrimmage against the LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center on Saturday.
31’ Sebastian Giovinco (assist: Benoit Cheyrou)
52’ Jordan Hamilton (assist: Mo Babouli)
89’ Jordan Hamilton
First Half XI: Irwin; Lovitz, Williams, Zavaleta, Beitashour; Osorio, Cheyrou, Delgado; Giovinco, Gomez, Chapman.
Second Half XI: Bono; Lovitz, Moor, Perquis, Charpie; Uccello, Mannella, James; Babouli, Hamilton, Endoh.
Subs: 62’ Taintor on for Lovitz, 72’ Hagglund on for Charpie, 81’ Madison on for Endoh.