Who: Toronto FC II (3-9-4, 13pts) vs. Charleston Battery (7-4-3, 24 pts)
When: Sunday June 26th, 7:30pm
Where: Ontario Soccer Centre, Vaughan, ON
The Young Reds will be back at home after a two game road trip as they host the Charleston Battery on Sunday evening.
Toronto FC II lost both games on their swing through the mid-west, but played enough good soccer that head coach Jason Bent will feel confident of threading together a good run of form in the second half of the season. At the halfway point of the season, TFC II are currently only five points out from the playoff spots.
There are positives to be taken in the development of several players over the course of the year. Brian James looks set to become a rock in the middle of the park, and the midfield unit was a lot steadier following his introduction on Tuesday evening. Shaan Hundal has come on in leaps and bounds in recent weeks. It's difficult to believe that he is still only 16 years old, such is the muscularity of his hold up play and the intelligence of his distribution.
Raheem Edwards, the team's top scorer, missed Tuesday's game as he was with Toronto FC for the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final, a competition that Malik Johnson played a role in as well. Edwards, Skylar Thomas, and Chris Manella have all starred for the Canadian U-23 this season.
They'll be hopeful of kick-starting their playoff drive against a Charelston Battery team that has had some middling form of late.
The Battery won their Saturday night game against Harrisburg, but it took an 82nd minute penalty conversion to get them the three points. They haven't really clicked offensively this year, the fourth placed cub scoring one goal or fewer in eight of their games so far.
Their fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings is predicated on a solid defence, and that is helped by the presence of Alexander Tambakis, a Panathinaikos product who was the first player signed by Atlanta United FC, Charleston's MLS affiliate.
Shawn Ferguson will be focal point in the centre of defence, and veteran Zach Prince will hustle hard just in front of it, however, his 3 assists for the year warn of his potency on the ball as well as off it.
Players to watch:
Justin Portillo: The New Orleans native won newcomer of the year for his work with the Battery in the 2014 season. He's often deployed deep in the midfield, but his ability to read the play and move the ball intelligently mark him out as a real threat. A dead ball specialist, he scored 8 goals last year, and is on course to match that this season, with 4 goals and 3 assists to his name thus far.
Romario Williams: The namesake of the Brazilian appears to have the same nose for goal. The third overall pick in the 2015 MLS superdraft, Williams is on loan from Montreal Impact. He has played, and scored, with the Jamaican national team at U-17 and U-23, and his pace and strength have led him to tally 6 goals for this season.