TFC II weren’t able to grab three points, but were still able to play a very impressive match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
It was a gorgeous afternoon for TFC II to have a home opener in front of a sell out crowd. Before the match the Pittsburgh Riverhounds looked to be the stronger side, however the young Reds were able to hold their own for 90 minutes and looked like the more dominant side. A late goal would tie the match at 2-2 and see the home side walk away with only one point. Still an impressive outing that see’s TFC II earn five points from three games.
The match started with both teams pressing and evenly having possession. Winger Raheem Edwards once again stepped up and was able to use his speed and strength to break down Pittsburgh’s right side. The 20-year-old even played into TFC II’s first goal, which saw Edwards swing in a nice corner to loanee Nick Hagglund, who headed home his first USL goal in the 11th minute.
The young Reds were then able to hold off the Riverhounds with good defending from Hagglund and Skylar Thomas, but were out done by a rushing Romeo Parkes, who slotted his shot bottom left on keeper Alex Bono to level the game at 1-1 five minutes before half.
The second half saw TFC II continue pressuring the Riverhounds wings, which saw Pittsburgh right back Michael Green pull down Edwards at the edge of the box and put his side in a difficult situation. Edwards would capitalize on the penalty in the 55th minute and put his team back on top, scoring his third goal in three games.
The young Reds were able to hold off the Riverhounds and the forceful duo of Parkes and Corey Hertzog, but was unable to stop a free kick from Conor Branson who slotted his 91st minute shot nicely past a diving Bono, levelling the game back at 2-2.
The drama didn’t end there. TFC II lined up for a corner in the 93rd and were able to get a shot off which went by everyone but Parkes, who was at the right side of the net, and cleared it out. This then lead to a Riverhound counter-attack that was stopped by Bono.
A tough end for TFC II in their home opener, but a match that showed that this young Reds team looks different than they did a year ago.
More from Toronto Reds
Youngsters stepping up
For the past two matches, midfielder Aidan Daniels and striker Shann Hundal have shown maturity and why they deserve to be named to the starting XI.
The 16-year-old Hundal may be young, but it doesn’t look like he is fazed by the strong defending of the USL level. Hundal impressed TFC II head coach Jason Bent while with the TFC Academy during the GA Cup and has earned two starts so far. While the Riverhounds tried to double team Hundal, the young striker didn’t seem bothered by the hard defending.
Daniels has featured in all three matches so far, and has looked to be a dominant force in the centre midfield. His ability to push forward and help defensively when needed, is something that is making him an important factor for this team. Like Hundal, Daniels looks calm and when pressured to make a decision, he doesn’t usually look to boot the ball away, but try to work it back to his teammates.
These two have really stepped up and can hopefully continue earning valuable minutes.
Edwards showing his dominance
He may have only scored a penalty, but Edwards did so much more throughout the 90 minutes. He was able to draw defenders to him, opening up space for his teammates and even providing some nice passes inside the box.
Edwards’ four shots caused problems for Riverhound keeper Hunter Gilstrap, and almost saw him score more than once. It is fair to say that he has been the clubs best player so far, and if he continues playing like this, then it shouldn’t be surprising if the first team starts calling him up.
His speed and athleticism are a reason why he has three goals in three games and why opponents are starting to cover him more.
A different story this time around
Last year the Riverhounds dominated TFC II in their three match series, which saw them outscore the young Reds 10-2. Pittsburgh is a different team this year after losing some key players, and so is TFC II.
Having players from last year already know what to expect from the USL level and having youngsters ease into the lineup is a reason why the club has five points in three matches. Another reason why TFC II earned a point on the weekend was because they were able to shut down the speedy and crafty Stephen Okai. Okai was a player that made defending hard for the young Reds last season, but come Sunday was unable to cause any problems.
It may be early in the season, but at this time last year, TFC II had only one win and two difficult losses that saw them get outscored 7-3. It will be a long season for the second year club, but one that so far looks to be heading in the right direction.