Aaron Molloy scored a stunner early and Derek Gebhard notched his fourth of the year in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to ward off a persistent Toronto FC II side who leveled the match late, and Forward Madison settled for a 2-2 draw on Wednesday night.
With the draw, Madison are unbeaten in the last five and move into sixth place on the table, tied with North Texas on points but behind on goal differential. A win would have vaulted the Mingos into third place behind Chattanooga Red Wolves and Union Omaha.
Head Coach Carl Craig said the result was the “toughest defeat” before correcting himself to characterize it as the “toughest draw of the year.”
Central midfielder Molloy opened the scoring in the 11th minute, collecting a poor clearance about 20 yards from goal, popping it over a defender and hammering a screamer on the half-volley into the upper left corner.
Toronto leveled matters 12 minutes later, as Jullian Altobelli took a ball over the top, just barely staying onside before slotting a steep angled shot past Madison goalkeeper Phil Breno.
After a lackluster performance for the rest of the first half, Madison came out firing in the second, and it paid off five minutes after the break as Justin Sukow launched a long ball from the center circle to Derek Gebhard just inside the Toronto area. Gebhard took the pass down cleanly and let it run toward the end line before scoring at an impressively steep angle.
Madison created several more chances and could have added another goal or two, if not for the impressive performance of Toronto goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla.
“Not going to see many goalkeepers like that … you’ve got to tip your hat to that kid,” Craig said. “It’s not bad finishing, it’s great goalkeeping.”
With Vaikla keeping Toronto within striking distance, the visitors struck in the 86th minute. A brief defensive breakdown left Kobe Franklin alone at the top of the area. Paul Rothrock found him with a low cross and Franklin finished with a curler to Breno’s left.
Madison finished the night with 17 shots and nine on target, seven of which Vaikla saved. Toronto, by contrast, had only two on frame — the two that went in — and only eight total shots.
“Did tremendously well, created a boatload of chances, scored a couple of great goals,” Carl said, calling both goals conceded “just stupid.”
“Our football’s come on a ton in the last couple of games,” he said. “We looked dangerous when we went forward. The two poor goals to give up, we throw that behind us and look at the positives. There was an awful lot of positive football and good performances. We’re headed in the right direction. I’m confident we’ll get there if we keep performing like that. Still a lot of work to do.”
Molloy called the result “super frustrating.”
“Sometimes it feels like a loss,” he said. “It’ll hurt tonight, get back to training tomorrow and use that as fuel, fire in the belly and go again on Saturday. We want to get those games in, start climbing up the table, get a home draw and win the championship. That’s what we do it for. We do it for the fans, we do it for the team, we do it for Madison.”
Madison hosts its third game in eight days Saturday, as Breese Stevens Field hosts North Texas SC, a club that beat the Flamingos 4-1 on July 10.