Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls battled to a 1-1 draw in a 70 minute scrimmage in Champions Gate, FL on Saturday.
Both teams fielded younger lineups with a handful of veterans sprinkled into the mix.
The first half produced little in terms of quality chances with TFC and the Red Bulls sticking to their defensive shape with few issues. The second stanza was a different story, with both sides finding holes that didn’t exist earlier.
New York opened the scoring in the 55th minute when a cross was inadvertently deflected by Nick Hagglund into the TFC net. Toronto responded 10 minutes later when Jordan Hamilton, who moved to the wing in the second half, beat two defenders down the left and crossed the ball into the box where Mo Babouli was waiting to pounce. The 23-year-old connected with the bouncing ball, slotting it past Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara to tie the game.
Greg Vanney gave long looks to a number of players fighting for regular minutes and they did not disappoint.
Babouli continues to impress and is on the verge of securing a place with the first team after another strong outing.
“We have these training sessions where we anticipate the ball coming in different ways,” said Babouli when asked about his goal.”I hit it like I was in practice without any thought. It’s an instinct. You see the ball and do what feels most natural.”
With three preseason games remaining Babouli isn’t making any bold proclamations in regards to his chances of cracking the big club. "I hope [I make it.],” he said. “I keep pushing hard every training session.”
“It was a great individual play by Jordan and Mo had a great finish,” said midfielder Jay Chapman. “Controlling a bouncing ball at the top of the box isn’t the easiest but [Babouli] did really well with it. Mo has had a great preseason.”
Chapman was another influential Canadian youngster on this day, playing for the entire 70 minutes.
“It was to good get some longer minutes,” Chapman continued. “New York’s a great team. It was a younger squad they put out there but they still had some very good players. It was good to go up against MLS competition. When we were in LA we were playing some college teams and a PDL side and the competition was good, but MLS teams are a whole different animal.”
While there appears to be an opening up front for Babouli, Chapman’s path to first team minutes will be tougher to navigate. The team possesses a number of midfielders jockeying for playing time in the 4-3-3 formation Vanney has employed this preseason.
Nonetheless, Chapman believes he’s making positive strides.
“I have a much better understanding as to how we want to play,” said Chapman. “Last year towards the end of preseason I was still learning, whereas now it’s my second year and I really understand how the coaching staff wants me to play so that makes it a lot easier on the pitch.”
TFC will meet Orlando City SC on Sunday in a closed-door preseason friendly at 1 PM ET. Follow #TFCLive on Twitter for game updates. .
Toronto FC Starting XI: Roberts; Lovitz (Bloom), Hagglund, Zavaleta (Williams), Charpie; Chapman, Cheyrou (Gomez), James; Babouli, Hamilton, Madison.
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