Toronto FC II ready for first play-off outing after regular season final victory

TORONTO — While Toronto FC is out of the playoff battle with two games left in the MLS season, TFC II is embarking on its first-ever postseason foray.

TORONTO — While Toronto FC is out of the playoff battle with two games left in the MLS season, TFC II is embarking on its first-ever postseason foray.

The young Reds will face the Philadelphia Union II on Saturday at BMO Field in the semifinals of the MLS Next Pro Eastern Conference.

“We are happy where we are,” said head coach Gianni Cimini. “We believe we are a team that can go to the extreme.”

TFC II (12-9-3) finished at the top of the Northeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Philadelphia (11-9-4). It is the inaugural season of MLS Next Pro, with 21 teams – 20 MLS reserve teams and the independent Rochester New York FC.

Seven more MLS clubs plan to place teams in MLS Next Pro next year.

Whitecaps FC 2 (7-9-8) finished out of the playoffs in seventh place in the Western Conference. Montreal has no entry in the league.

Since its inception in 2015, playing in the USL and USL League One, TFC’s second team had never reached the postseason.

This year it all came down to Toronto securing its place in the playoffs with a 2-1 win over Orlando City B on the final day of the regular season on September 18. Toronto had lost 4-3 to Inter Miami II and 1-0 to RNY FC before that.

Toronto would have advanced to the playoffs with an Orlando draw. The late winner assured them of a home game.

“It should give us a bit of a head start going into the (play-off) game because it was difficult,” Cimini said of the battle to get into the post-season. “Especially after losing two games, to come back and get that result.

“So we hope we can take that into this play-off game.”

Of the 20 players who dressed for TFC II in the regular season finale in Orlando, six players played for the first team this season: Kobe Franklin, Steffen Yeates, Themi Antonoglou, Paul Rothrock, Jordan Perruzza and Kadin Chung.

Adam Pearlman was signed to short-term first-team deals but remained on the bench for TFC games against the Philadelphia Union (April 16) and Orlando City (May 14).

Under Cimini, the 2022 reserve team set records for wins (12), points (41 points), goals (44), goal difference (plus-6) and away wins (six). The 10-game unbeaten run (7-0-3) between June 2 and August 21 is the longest in club history.

Fourteen different players have scored for Cimini, with Rothrock leading with seven goals, while Hugo Mbongue, recently signed a homegrown contract with TFC, and Reshaun Walkes have six and Julian Altobelli has five.

Walkes stepped it up as the season went on and impressed from the bench.

“Every game he plays in looks like he’s playing his last game ever,” said Cimini of Walkes, who won the third round (59th overall) of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. “That’s how much effort he puts in. him the results he gets on the field.”

Toronto defeated Philadelphia twice in the regular season, 1-0 at home on June 11 and 2-1 on July 18 in Philadelphia.

Last season, Toronto (10-10-8) just missed the USL League One playoffs, after FC Tucson (11-10-7) beat the visiting Richmond Kickers 4-2 to drop Toronto to seventh place , just below the playoff line. It was a disappointing end to a marathon season for TFC II, which began play in Arizona due to the pandemic, before moving to Florida and then returning home.

Saturday’s winner will face Rochester’s Columbus Crew II or RNY FC in the Eastern Conference Finals.

St. Louis City 2, the Tacoma Defiance, Houston Dynamo 2 and North Texas SC will compete in the west.

The inaugural MLS Next Pro Cup is scheduled for October 8.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 23, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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