A shorthanded Toronto FC played host to the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field with an expectation of coming away with a win. The Canadian team did just that, scoring twice in three minutes early on to put the game out of reach for the visitors and send the Union home with some slight positives but also a lot to work on.
Philadelphia actually came out swinging, dominating possession and wreaking havoc in the opening moments. Sapong almost found the net in the 7th minute following a Nogueira pass but was unable to find the target despite beating backup keeper Joe Bendik. But things began to change quickly as Toronto began to break, invoking huge pressure on the defence. With Ethan White taking the start due to Edu’s suspension, Toronto threw everything at a player who lacked match fitness.
On the day, it was a scenario many have experienced this year, it was former Juventus star Sebastian Giovinco who stole the show. First he used his exotic style of play to create the chance for Marky Delgado to put Toronto up by a goal, before converting his own chance just moments later. Altidore flicked a neat header that was volleyed in a way that only Giovinco knows how. Sylvestre fumbled the save and the striker blitzed the Union defenders to put the ball into the net and grab his 12th goal of the campaign.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Andrew Wenger was forced off due to a head injury late in the first half, paving the way for the exciting rookie Eric Ayuk to make his way back onto the field. Ayuk was booked later in the game as he still seems to carry a hot headed approach into games. But once he settles down, he really is dangerous on the flanks.
Just under a minute later, Giovinco almost sealed his spot in team of the weak with a shot rolling past Sylvestre and slowly scuttling along the floor. It looked as if it would trickle into the net but lucky for the Philadelphia Union, it bobbled past the far post and out of play.
The second half was very much a bus parking for Toronto. They didn’t need to score and probably wanted to conserve some fitness whilst slowing down the pace and cutting off any Union chances with swift clearances. It’s a frustrating method, but it’s implemented by countless teams over countless games. The problem was, the Union could not find a way to up the tempo.
Zach Pfeffer was substituted on about half way through the second period and a rare appearance from Conor Casey saw Richie Marquez take the leave, meaning the Union added one more attacker and very bravely left Ethan White on his own as Fabinho and Gaddis pushed forward.
The Union began to throw everything at Toronto with countless crosses into the box to be snatched away by the goalie or hoofed clear by just about every player possible. There was just no way through, Toronto played a very tight game in the second half and made it very difficult for any player to break through. Sylvestre was sending his goal kicks as deep as possible whilst Maidana was threading constant ground through balls to the forwards with limited success.
A glimmer of hope for the Union arose right at the very end after a very impressive defensive effort from Toronto. Conor Casey ruined the backup keeper’s chance of a shutout right at the death with a 91st minute goal. Sapong’s vision was evident as Casey took the pass through two defenders to fire a powerful shot that Bendik simply couldn’t reach. Whilst ultimately, the goal meant nothing it does actually give the Union hope. We referenced earlier this week that due to Sapong’s suspension, the Union may well be without a designated striker. Casey scoring has not only embedded hope in the situation but also alleviated some pressure from C.J. Curtin may well have the choice to start two strikers again or at least rest the Philadelphia Union’s top goalscorer should the need arise. With question marks still hanging over Nando’s head, this may be the biggest positive to take from the game. That going into the Open Cup fixture on Tuesday, the Union do indeed have options at the striker position and won’t have to move a winger into unfamiliar territory.
Toronto wrapped up the game but would have liked to keep a clean sheet. As for the Philadelphia Union, they head back east to face the N.Y Red Bulls in the U.S Open Cup on Tuesday.