MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 0-2 Philadelphia Union

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1sZdA_Ax8U%5D

One game, 100 words (or less): In a meeting between two teams battling at the edge of the East’s playoff race, both Toronto and Philadelphia played to type, leaving a slumping TFC defeated for the second time in four days by the surging Union.

Philadelphia opened the scoring in the eight minute, with a disorganized Toronto defense failing to pick up target man Conor Casey on a cross from right back Sheanon Williams. Just before halftime, the Union doubled their lead, with Williams recording his second assist of the day after a cross-goal header for Andrew Wenger.

Up two, Toronto were given control of the second half, but aside from a 77th minute try that found the crossbar and Michael Bradley’s 89th minute blast that did the same, the Reds rarely threatening. Losing 2-0 at BMO Field, TFC saw its winless streak to reach five, while Philadelphia recorded its third win in a row.

Goals:

Toronto FC: None.
Philadelphia: Conor Casey 8′, Andrew Wenger 44′

Three moments that mattered:

8′ – Somebody mark Conor – The game’s even start was rendered meaningless during Philadelphia’s first major attack, a foray Toronto tried to defend with chaos. After a ball tackled off Conor Casey left Philadelphia in possession outside the Reds’ penalty area, a blob of red shirts began chasing the ball, leaving the team out of position when the Union found Williams coming forward on their right. As Toronto swayed to recover, Casey was left unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box, the striker’s easy header giving the visitors their early lead.

44′ – More trouble with the basics – As if it drawn up on a whiteboard, Philadelphia turns a short corner into a goal. Sebastien Le Toux, with the ball played back to him after a corner, tries to go far post for Williams, who gets the ball with a little help from a failed clearance. Without a second thought, Williams puts the ball back across goal, finding an abandoned Andrew Wenger seven yards from goal. The ensuing header into the right side netting leaves Philadelphia up two at halftime.

77′ – Toronto comes close – Just before the hour-mark, TFC started to come into the game, taking firm control for the last half-hour. Unfortunately for the home fans, the team’s best chance to make break through was denied by the crossbar. Mark Bloom, bursting behind the Union defense, found room to put in a short left-footed cross, finding an open Jackson eight yards out. The Brazilian’s snap header nailed the crossbar, though, with Luke Moore unable to win the battle for the rebound.

Lineups

Toronto FC: Joe Bendik; Nick Hagglund (Warren Creavalle 77′), Bradley Orr, Doniel Henry, Mark Bloom; Dwayne De Rosario (Jackson 70′), Michael Bradley, Collen Warner (Kyle Bekker 44′), Dominic Oduro; Gilberto, Luke Moore
Philadelphia Union: Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Maurice Edu, Raymon Gaddis; Amobi Okugo, Vincent Nogueira; Sebastien Le Toux (Danny Cruz 81′), Cristian Maidana (Brian Carroll 89′), Andrew Wenger; Conor Casey (Pedro Ribeiro 68′)

Three Four Lessons Going Forward

1. Desperation is now spelled ‘Dwayne De Rosario’ – Perhaps desperation is hyperbolic, but amid what’s becoming a season-defining crisis, Toronto gave the veteran Canadian his first league start since April. Perhaps Greg Vanney saw something in training that recommended “DeRo” over Jackson. Pregame, Vanney said alluded to an advantage the former MVP presented in the match ups. Still, the move felt like a team desperate for solutions praying for some veteran magic, something that failed to pay off on Saturday

2. Typical Philadelphia – The Union were far behind in the possession battle (42 pct. for the day), and until Toronto started to wane near the end of the of the first half, they were also being outshot. Neither state is foreign to Philly. Throughout their summer surge, Philadelphia has been a team of opportunities – capitalizing on theirs while preventing yours, even if that means looking relatively benign throughout the rest of the game. While it’s almost trite in a low scoring sport to note games are decided by moments, the Union provide another reminder: The main indicators aren’t predictors for every team.

3. Casey still the man – Philadelphia’s number nine is a big reason why that approach works. On the breaks the team generates in the opponent’s third, Casey’s experience finds vulnerabilities, while his strength and ability to drop away from the defense to win balls sent out of the back allows the Union to absorb attacks without being pinned in their own end. At BMO Field, both virtues were on display, with the veteran striker again proving himself one of the most important parts of Jim Curtin’s squad.

4. Toronto is not a playoff-caliber team right now – No kidding, right? Today hammered it home, though. Against a team they’ll battle for one of the East’s final spots — a team that came into the day with the same point total — Toronto was decidedly second best. Slowly, yet right before our eyes, this is turning into a typical TFC season.

Where this leaves them

  • Toronto remains in the East’s top five, but mercifully so. With 33 points, the Reds have been passed by Philadelphia for fourth. A point from Columbus against Chivas USA (or, a New York win over Sporting) will leave TFC out of a playoff spot.
  • Philadelphia’s not only in the East’s top five, they’re back to “500”. The team’s 9-9-9 mark makes it one of three Eastern Conference teams with as many wins as losses (D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City).