Nakye Greenidge-Duncan tucked in a goal at the end of regulation to give Toronto FC II a 1-0 victory over visiting Philadelphia Union II.
Union II had a tough task ahead of them with Nathan Nkanji and Brandan Craig both unavailable in defense. Cole Turner, who has been dominant in MLSNextPro play in midfield, slid into the back line to partner with Jack Jasinski, and Jesus Bueno anchored an incredibly attacking midfield that featured both Boubacar Diallo and Bajung Darboe.
Matt Freese provided calmness in net as he snagged TFCII’s first clean look out of the air in the fifth minute. Anton Sorenson took on a playmaking role when left alone in back and nearly sent Jose Riasco through the middle before picking out Chris Donovan with a well-weighted aerial ball.
In the 10th minute, TFCII went up the Union left and nearly found space in the center but the final ball was poked over the net.
Philly responded with a spell of possession in the 15th minute that culminated with a sumptuous cross-field ball from Turner that picked out Ian Abbey. The midfielder found Bueno centrally and the Union mid set up Diallo for a shot that thumped into traffic.
As the half-hour mark rolled past, Union II’s style of play had started to influence the rhythm of the match. TFCII found fewer clean looks when Philly made them play direct, and Philly pressed the home defenders to create turnovers. After Freese took the ball off an attacker’s feet, Riasco flew to the other end of the pitch and frightened his man into a loose back pass that Luka Gavran flew out to clear.
Donovan pounced on a chance in the 33rd minute but once again Union II were denied by a scrambling defense.
TFC scurried forward after knocking the ball off Darboe’s feet and tested Freese’s near post but the Union goalie was again too large and too quick.
Freese closed the half with more strong play as the two sides entered the break even.
Early in the second half, TFC again build chances off of midfield turnovers while Union II asked questions down the home side’s left. Ian Abbey ducked behind the back line but couldn’t find a head with his cross near the endline.
Bueno covered ground throughout the match and found himself on the right wing in the 58th minute. A throughball for Riasco was slightly in front of the lanky striker and Toronto cleared.
A 66th minute free kick from the right couldn’t generate a look as Union II added Nelson Pierre to the attack in place of Riasco and Carlos Paternina stepped in for Darboe as the attacking fulcrum in midfield.
Wonderful pressure from Paternina and Pierre knocked the ball loose in the center and Donovan had a first-time look from the middle skate over the bar.
Nelson Pierre put the ball wide after driving the full length of the attacking half, and nothing came from the ensuing corner.
Just as the match looked to end even and go to penalties, Nakye Greenidge-Duncan poked home a late goal to put Toronto on top when the final whistle blew.
Union II will regroup next Sunday when they welcome Chicago Fire II to Subaru Park for a 2:00PM ET showdown, streamed live on MLSNextPro.com.