Photo by ISIphotos.com
BY: Kurtis Larson
Call it a well-earned draw.
Though highly overshadowed by Thierry Henry's debut against Tottenham tonight, Toronto FC took on the EPL's Bolton Wanderers Wednesday in front of just under 20,000 in attendance at BMO Field in Toronto.
Fielding a team largely comprised of reserves and teenage academy players, Toronto played last year's 14th place Premier League finisher to a 1-1 draw, eventually losing in penalties.
TFC head coach Preki reacted to the 1-1 scoreline following the game.
"This game was fun but we have a game on Saturday that means a lot to us," he said. "This was a game for our fans and for some young players we needed to have a look at. I thought everyone that played had a pretty good showing."
As the game progressed it became more and more apparent that TFC arguably have more quality in their youth system than any other MLS side at the moment.
Say what you will about LA's Tristan Bowen and DC's Andy Najar — two of the most highly publicized underclassmen in the league, TFC Academy are developing and producing very promising Canadian youth internationals in Doneil Henry, Matthew Stinson and Nicholas Lindsay, all of whom are 17-years-old and playing substantial minutes for TFC in exhibition matches.
"It's something I enjoy doing and I have been training hard and hoping for the best," TFC Academy player and Canadian U20 international Doneil Henry said. "I'm getting more comfortable with the ball and figuring out the difference between the academy and the professional level. The best opportunity is to be called up."
A quick glance at last year's final weekend of the Barclay's Premier League shows that Bolton fielded a starting 11 featuring seven players that were in the first 11 in the team's final EPL match last season. Although Bolton is still in the early stages of pre-season preparation, there's something to be said of TFC's ability to field academy players and earn a hard-fought result.
"I thought they all did well," Preki said. "They all worked hard and they were all part of the group. They moved together defensively and I was pleased with it."
Beyond TFC's encouraging academy outlook, TFC fans were able to see their two newest signings link up for an equalizer just before the half.
In the 46th minute, TFC winger Jacob Peterson received a ball just beyond the half before cutting inside on a defender. Peterson sprayed the ball wide to TFC's newsest signing, Mista, who lofted in a perfectly weighted ball that found an unmarked Maicon Santos at the back of the six-yard-box. Santos watched on as his header went beyond the outstretched arms of Finnish International Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the side netting.
"From the first pass until the goal the passing was good," Preki said. "The timing on the cross was great and obviously the finish was first class I would say."
Towards the closing portions of the match TFC had the better of chances with O'Brian White missing from close range and academy player Nicholas Lindsay being denied by a wall of Bolton defenders on the goal-line.
In penalty kicks, Bolton's Jaaskelainen came up big with two saves while TFC third string keeper Milos Kocic could only watch as U.S. international Stuart Holden and three others found the net for Bolton.
The latest news out of Vancouver is that the Whitecaps are selling season ticket packages at such a rate that they are considering allotting a larger quantity of season packages to the public ahead of their entry into MLS next season.
Earlier in the week west coast media outlets reported that Vancouver had surpassed 13,000 season tickets sold with the Portland Timbers in the neighborhood of 7,000 packages thus far.
Vancouver has set a target of 16,500 with Portland hoping for somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 season ticket packages sold.
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi expects excitement to build following the conclusion of this year's USSF D-2 season saying "that's when the clock starts ticking and you will hear updates regarding a coaching announcement and player signings."
The Whitecaps' president also mentioned that Thierry Henry's recent signing with the league created an overnight jump in season tickets sold.
Anything surprise you about the TFC vs. Bolton result? What did you think of Mista's half of play? Can the league expect Vancouver to sellout every home game next season?