Mon May 11
Written By: Staff, League1
The occasion of Toronto FC Academy's 2015 home opener was marred by the late winner scored by Sigma F.C.'s Nolan Holdridge - the final tally in a 4-3 battle that had everyone in attendence on the edge of their seats - but the sizeable audience in attendance were nevertheless entertained by a match full of chances and drama.
Sigma drew first blood via a third minute Dominic Samuel strike, but then both sides traded punches with TFCA's Nicholas Osorio netting on twelve minutes, and Alex Halis responding for Sigma just six minutes later. The stage was thoroughly set for the afternoon, as TFCA's Cyrus Rollocks quickly responded on twenty-one minutes, Sigma's Manvir Brar chipped the TFCA netminder in the fourty-fifth minute, and the Junior Reds restored equality on fifty-one minutes courtesy of Richie Ennin - in what head coach Stuart Neely later said was both an MVP performance and the best match he had ever seen Ennin play.
The early summer extreme heat, and no-quarter-given nature of the contest, soon led to both sides firing in on tackles and off the ball challenges. TFC's Steven Furlano couldn't avoid being handed his marching orders after a second caution in the seventy-fifty minute for unsporting behaviour . Nevertheless, after the match Sigma head coach Bobby Smyrniotis would point out Furlano as the heart of TFCA play on the day, constantly dictating tempo, and tirelessly harrying the Sigma backline.
A man up for the final fifteen, Sigma began to dominate, and it was Nolan Holdridge that made the final cut just minutes from regulation when he notched the difference maker. TFCA head coach Stuart Neely would select Sigma's Holdridge as his outstanding opposition player of the day, not only for his match winning goal but for his excellent distribution and penetrative play throughout the ninety minutes.
"Our guys did a great job on a difficult day, in the heat. We scored goals and created chances," said Smyrniotis. "We just needed more rhythm."
"We played a very good first ten minutes, and to be honest were not good at all for the following thirty-five minutes of the first half," he added. "We wanted a quick goal but sometimes the effect of a quick goal can change the mentality of your players and that happened to us in a hurry. With that said we scored three goals in the first half on a very poor performance for our standards and we let the players know this at halftime."
"I think Sigma FC were very intelligent about how they played the game," said Neely. "They didn't want to open themselves up, however their attack line moved the ball around and caught out our backline on counters periodically. Certainly a credit to them for finishing their chances. They took them well."
"I thought we played very well in an attacking sense," he continued, "and moved the ball well. Next time around, hopefully, we will finish our chances a bit better than we did and tighten up defensively. We caused our own problems, and on the day we were punished for it. I think these are key lessons for a very young team, but this is what we're signed up for and we want to make sure our players are ready for professional football down the road and learn from these mistakes. It was a harsh learning day, but I think every week we gradually get better."