FRISCO, Texas – Two of the most prolific scorers in North American youth soccer were at it again on Sunday night at the Generation adidas Cup.
Toronto FC academy forward Jacen Russell-Rowe found the back of the net twice, and Toronto FC II player Jayden Nelson opened the scoring, helping Toronto FC to a 4-2 win against Peñarol in their second game of the day.
The result erased the disappointment from the morning, when Toronto jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the LA Galaxy, only to concede twice and fall in a penalty-kick shootout.
“We came in hungrier this game than the other one,” Russell-Rowe told MLSsoccer.com. “That was what we wanted, to put ourselves in a good spot for our next game.”
Russell-Rowe popped up in the right place at the right time for his second half brace, extending the Toronto FC lead to 4-1. It gave them a big cushion by the time Peñarol tacked on another goal from a set piece with about 10 minutes to go. Peñarols's first goal came through Nicolas Rossi, brother of LAFC forward Diego Rossi.
Deployed on his favored left flank, Nelson was a blur when TFC got the ball. Always looking to take defenders on 1v1, he opened the scoring and nearly bagged one of the goals of the day, with an absurd shot from around 30 yards out striking the crossbar. At times, he eliminated defenders at will, before either looking to test the opposing goalkeeper or trying to set up teammates like Russell-Rowe or Deandre Kerr in front of goal.
“[On] our transition we did a better job getting from one side to another, and we just capitalized on it today,” Nelson told MLSsoccer.com.
Part of their success against Peñarol came in the way the opponents set themselves up on the field. Russell-Rowe noted that there was a sharp contrast between the way the Galaxy challenged them earlier in the day and how the club from Uruguay defended.
“They gave us a lot more space in their half, they didn’t press us as high,” he said. “Peñarol, they were a little lower, gave us more space to build out and we were more comfortable, we were able to create more opportunities that way.”
The Canadian youth internationals helped propel Toronto into first place in Group B of the Champions Division after two games, needing at least a draw in Monday’s clash against Dinamo Zagreb to advance to the quarterfinals. Nelson’s success comes in his third trip to a Generation adidas Cup, providing him plenty of experience against the caliber of opposition.
And it’s sure to come in handy as Toronto Under-17s look to make a run in 2019.
“Every year it gets better,” he said. “This year, it’s really an experience because a lot of European teams are here. It’s a great competition.”