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Toronto FC II downs New England II to keep USL League One playoff hopes alive


TORONTO — Paul Rothrock scored on a spectacular volley in the 62nd minute to keep Toronto FC II's playoff hopes alive with a 1-0 win Friday over New England Revolution II in the final USL League One regular-season game for both teams.

The goal was set up by Luca Petrasso, who drove into the New England penalty box and beat a defender before floating a cross that Rothrock hammered high into the goal.

"I was ecstatic. I was absolutely ecstatic," Rothrock said. "I was most ecstatic because I was just hoping that Luca was going to find me back post and he did by playing a great ball. I've been working a lot with (assistant coach) Danny Dichio on my finishing and it's paid off."

The 22-year-old Rothrock, a Seattle native who was taken by Toronto FC in the third round (64th overall) of the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, has scored or assisted on five of TFC II’s last eight goals (four goals and one assist).

"Another quality, class goal from Paul," said TFC II coach Mike Munoz.

Both teams came into the game knowing a loss would end their chances at the post-season. Toronto needed to win and get some help elsewhere Saturday.

League One is the USL's second tier, underneath the 31-team USL Championship. League One's newly expanded playoff format this season features the top six in the 12-team standings.

The Toronto win clinched playoff berths for the fourth-place Richmond Kickers (11-9-7, 40 points) and fifth-place North Texas SC (10-8-9, 39 points). New England (11-13-4, 37 points) dropped into seventh place, below the playoff line.

Rubbing salt in the wound, New England goalkeeper Joe Rice was sent off in second-half stoppage time for interfering with Hugo Mbongue on a Toronto attack.

Toronto (10-10-8, 38 points) moved from eighth to sixth in the standings and must now await the result of Saturday's regular-season finale between eighth-place FC Tucson (10-10-7, 37 points) and Richmond.

A Tucson win and Toronto is out. A tie and Toronto remains playoff-bound thanks to superior goal difference.

The USL League One playoffs open Nov. 6.

The No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed while No. 4 entertains No. 5 in the quarterfinals, with the two winning teams moving on face the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the semifinals. The No. 1 seed will meet the lower-seeded team advancing from the quarterfinals.

It's been a marathon season for TFC 2, which started play in Arizona due to the pandemic, before shifting to Florida and then returning home.

Friday's game was played on a windy 12-degree Celsius afternoon at BMO Training Ground. The cross-field wind was so strong the ball moved when it was set down for a Toronto free kick late in the first half. 

Garrett McLaughlin had an early chance for Toronto from in close but sliding Rice made the save in the fourth minute.

It was Rice to the rescue in the 29th minute, diving to stop a Petrasso shot from the edge of the penalty box. Rice could not hang on to the ball, but the ensuing Rothrock shot off the rebound was driven into a New England defender.

Four minutes later, Rice got a foot to another Rothrock shot to blunt a rapid-fire Toronto counterattack.

New England's Brazilian midfielder Maciel was yellow-carded in the 36th minute for hauling down Rothrock on another Toronto attack. He escaped a red card because the referee judged there was another defender with a chance of stopping Rothrock. 

Rice saved New England again in the 44th, diving to stop a bouncing Julian Altobelli shot from distance.

Toronto 'keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell was called into action in the 56th minute, stopping New England's first and only shot on target. Minutes later, New England escaped danger by clearing a low cross aimed at a Toronto player at the far post.

Friday represented the fourth meeting of the two teams this season.

New England won the first two games, both by 1-0 margins, in July at Gillette Stadium while Toronto won 1-0 at home on Oct. 8.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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