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Toronto FC puts semi-pro Simcoe County to the sword in Canadian Championship play

TORONTO — After putting semi-pro Simcoe County Rovers FC to the sword in a 5-0 win Wednesday in Canadian Championship preliminary-round play, Toronto FC coach John Herdman wanted more.
Simcoe County Rovers' Alejandro Portal, left, battles for the ball with Toronto FC's Cassius Mailula and Jonathan Osorio during first half Canadian Championship soccer action, in Toronto, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — After putting semi-pro Simcoe County Rovers FC to the sword in a 5-0 win Wednesday in Canadian Championship preliminary-round play, Toronto FC coach John Herdman wanted more.

"We were looking at the record," he said, referencing Toronto's 6-1 cup win over Montreal in June 2009.

"So the target was to hit seven," he added. "We fell short. (I'm) disappointed. We probably could have had a few in the second half but the 'keeper (Rimi Olatunji). To be fair, he made some great saves … He stood on his head second half."

It wasn't, perhaps, the most gracious victory speech. But it shows where Herdman is coming from in looking to turn around a team that finished last in MLS last season at 4-20-10.

"We came here to set records. We came here to be first at as many things as we can," he explained. "That's the standard I've set for the club, the team. And we missed that standard tonight. … I told these men we missed a big opportunity tonight to make history." 

Prince Owusu, Cassius Mailula, Kevin Long, Jonathan Osorio and Tyrese Spicer scored for Toronto, which led the League1 Ontario champions 4-0 at the break with three of the goals coming in nine minutes. Owusu could have had a hat trick or more in the first half.

Herdman emptied his bench in the second half.

Simcoe County showed flashes of its skill but Toronto, despite having dug deep into its roster on the night, had too much. The MLS club's flank attacks overwhelmed Simcoe, which kicks off its regular season on Sunday.

Toronto, which has won the Canadian Championship eight times, will face either the CPL's Halifax Wanderers FC or Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent in the quarterfinal.

Simcoe qualified by winning the League1 Ontario title last year in just its second season. The club finished runner-up in the 2023 regular season at 15-4-1 before defeating league-leading Scrosoppi FC 4-2 in the championship game last September.

Simcoe hasn't played since other than pre-season games. But it was boosted by 1,500 travelling supporters Wednesday, who packed the north stand.

"There's lot to take away," said coach Zico Mahrady. "I think the second half itself, we showed a strong force. We made a couple of adjustments that allowed us to play a little more free and little braver. It's our first competitive game (this season) so I think we can keep our heads held high and be proud of the performance we put out today."

Simcoe's ownership group includes former Canada captains Julian de Guzman and Atiba Hutchinson and current Canadian Internationals Janine Beckie, Doneil Henry and Cyle Larin. 

It was all Toronto in the opening minutes with Simcoe unable to retain possession. But the visitors threatened in the 13th minute when goalkeeper Luka Gavran pushed Alexander Zis's low free kick from distance off the goalpost to safety. 

Orlandis Benitez's looping half-volley forced another save from Gavran in the 22nd minute.

Then normal service resumed.

Owusu opened the scoring in the 18th minute, heading home a Kobe Franklin cross after Simcoe was unable to clear the ball, allowing TFC to relaunch its attack. It was the six-foot-three German's fourth goal in three games and fifth in his last six.

Simcoe began to settle after going down a goal, however, and pieced together several good-looking forays into the Toronto end.

But Osorio, in his 350th appearance in all competitions for TFC, found Owusu in the penalty box and the German fed an unmarked Mailula for a tap-in in the 30th minute for a 2-0 lead. It was the first goal for the South African in his first start for the club.

Three minutes later, the six-foot-two Long headed home an Osorio corner.

Mailula and Owusu set up Osorio in the 39th minute with Owusu heading Mailula's well-flighted cross back to Osorio who, twisting his body to get off the shot, beat Olatunji.

Spicer, the first overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft, made it 5-0 in the 76th minute, heading home Franklin's cross after taking over Owusu's forward position.

Simcoe almost scored in the 78th minute but Gavran got a hand to Benitez's hard shot from close range.

Herdman had sent on Spicer, Sigurd Rosted and 17-year-old midfielder Andrei Dumitru to open the second half. It was a TFC debut for Dumitru, a TFC 2 player. Honduran international Deybi Flores and Nicksoen Gomis followed off the TFC bench.

Osorio was one of just four Toronto starters from Saturday's 1-0 win over New England.

The Simcoe starters featured six players with TFC connections with more in the full roster.

Toronto didn't field any of its three designated players with Lorenzo Insigne and Richie Laryea injured and Federico Bernardeschi given the night off.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2024.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press