Toronto FC II will kick-off their third season in the USL on March 25 when they take on Phoenix Rising FC. The Young Reds will be looking to build on a 2016 campaign that saw the team make great strides on and off the pitch. Here is torontofc.ca’s 2017 TFC II preview.
Toronto FC II finished the 2016 USL season with a 7-5-18 record. The Young Reds finished with 26 points, good for 12th in the USL’s Eastern Conference. The team’s point total was an improvement over the 23 points they had put up in their inaugural season.
However, TFC II’s 2016 season must be looked at beyond just the results. Toronto FC II’s main objective is to produce and develop talent for the first team. In that regard, Toronto FC II was very successful last season.
Toronto FC II led the USL in total MLS minutes in 2016. Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund, and Clint Irwin, who all started in Toronto FC’s 2016 MLS Cup Final match against the Seattle Sounders, also suited up for Toronto FC II during the season. Mark Bloom, Ashtone Morgan, and Daniel Lovitz all joined Toronto FC II while recovering from injuries last year.
Last season saw some of Toronto FC II’s original squad members play significant roles for the first team. Jay Chapman, Mo Babouli, Jordan Hamilton, and Alex Bono all spent the majority of 2015 with TFC II. All four found themselves earning minutes with the first team in 2016.
Raheem Edwards also appeared in an MLS match after signing a short-term agreement last season. Edwards was able to turn a strong 2016 with Toronto FC II into a first team deal this offseason.
Last year also saw the further emergence of Toronto FC Academy graduates into Toronto FC II’s squad. Anthony Osorio, Malik Johnson, Liam Fraser, Aiden Daniels, and Shaan Hundal all signed Toronto FC II deals last year and the five established themselves as the young core of this club.
The 2017 season will again have a major focus on growth and development. However, with a well-established core of young players, this version of Toronto FC II should be poised to reach new heights on the field in 2017.
Head Coach Jason Bent will most likely roll out a 3-5-2 formation to open the season. Bent has long emulated the first team’s style of play to make transitioning to the between both as painless as possible.
For the third consecutive year, Toronto FC II will open up the season on a road swing. The Reds will start the season in Phoenix before heading down to Florida to face both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Orlando City B. This will be a tough test for the Young Reds, as they will match up against two strong professional teams bidding for MLS expansion as well as a strong Orlando side. Jason Bent could also be without some players for the first couple of games, as a group of TFC II players are with Toronto FC III in Italy.
The Reds will open up their home schedule on April 7th when they play host to the Rochester Rhinos. Last season, the Reds split the series with the Rhinos. Each team picked up a win at home and they played to a midseason draw at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
The Young Reds will have to establish a new rival this season, after the folding of FC Montreal. The most likely candidate would be Ottawa Fury FC. The former NASL side will be playing their first season in the USL. They are also The Montreal Impact’s new USL affiliate. There will be three all-Canadian match-ups this season. The Reds will open up TD Place Stadium on April 22, before hosting the Fury on July 8, and then head back to Ottawa on July 29.
You can check out all of the important fixtures this season here.
Goalkeepers: One of the biggest questions heading into 2017 was who would be in between the sticks for the Young Reds. The Young Reds employed six starting keepers last season. Only one of which will be with the team this season. Toronto FC II locked up academy graduate Angelo Cavalluzzo in January. The 24-year-old made five appearances for the Reds last season. Toronto FC II also brought Mark Pais. Pais made 20 starts for St. Louis FC in the USL last season.
Defenders: Mitchell Taintor will be the only returning member to the backline from last season. The native of Connecticut will be looking to build off a strong season that saw him appear in 22 matches while scoring once Taintor will be joined in central defence by 2017 SuperDraft pick Lars Eckenrode. The former Michigan Wolverine should bring a consistent presence to the backline. Wingbacks Jordan McCrary and Anthony Osorio could man the flanks for the Reds. McCrary is a former 10th overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
Midfielders: A strong midfield quartet of Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Brian James, and Aiden Daniels all return to Toronto FC II this season. All four players appeared in 20+ matches for the Young Reds and combined for eight goals from the midfield last season.
Forwards: Despite the loss of joint leading goal scorer Raheem Edwards, Toronto FC II are still deep up front this season. Toronto FC II currently boasts three forward options each with their own unique skills sets. Academy graduate Malik Johnson is a quick and agile forward who scored four goals for the Reds last season. Ricardo John is a tall and powerful striker who scored three goals in just four games last season after coming in August. Shaan Hundal was the other co-leading scorer for TFC II last season, scoring six goals in 21 appearances. Hundal will not turn 18 until July, but he has already established himself as an important piece for this club.
As with any USL season, the roster will always be influx. Expect a large amount of TFC loanees to see playing time in the USL, as well as Toronto FC Academy players making their way into matches.
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