Goals, Geiger and Grit: Union’s 2-2 draw with Toronto

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After an unseasonably warm front end of the week, snow covered Talen Energy Stadium Friday. On Saturday, the frigid temperatures lingered. Even so, Union fans flocked to Talen Energy Stadium to cheer on the Union in their home opener vs Toronto. The best team from the east in 2016 came to Philly looking to avenge a slow start in their season opener. It was as if Toronto brought the cold from Canada to Philadelphia. The drastic weather change this past week gave Union fans somewhat of a preview of their home open. The home opener was anything but comfortable; Goals, Geiger and grit were all present in the Union’s 2-2 draw.

The goals scored were a combination of good, sloppy, and Geiger. The first goal was a nice one from the Union. They took the lead in the 10th minute of play; Medunjanin played a great ball into the box, Pontius out-jumped his defender, and played a ball across the box. Simpson ran at the ball and gave up his body to get a head on the ball before the keeper; the striker did just enough to dink the ball around Irwin for the first Union goal of the season. Simpson later left the game in the first half due to a rib injury, but his quick impact was of much importance.

The Union had an attempt to go two up in the first half. A smart restart led to a penalty for the Union. Toronto FC’s defense fell asleep, and had to pull down Herbers or he was free on goal. Here’s a look at how the Union had the chance to go two up.

Bedoya stepped up to the penalty spot, and unfortunately hit the bar. The Union missed an opportunity to bury Toronto FC in the first half. As it would happen, it was not the last PK to be called for grabbing in the box.

At the death of the first half,Toronto had a free kick in striking distance. The play started; the ball was played in and went right to Andre Blake. A whistle blew and Geiger pointed to the spot. It was very hard to see in real-time, and was even hard to see on the replay, but Altidore went down in the box after little contact from Derrick Jones. The call seemed a soft one, but grabbing/contact in the box is a new initiative that PRO Referee’s are keeping an eye on in 2017, so Geiger called the PK.

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Altidore stepped up and slotted the shot home to tie the game. He was called to the spot because his strike partner Giovinco went down with an injury after a collision with Gooch. The two teams went into halftime tied both losing starting strikers. The second half was just as exciting as the first!

The first 30 minutes of the second half produced a lot of back and forth. The Union had fire in their play as they were pushing the game for chances, and coming into tackles hard. Their frustrations grew with Geiger as the game went along as well. The intensity grew and grew, and a quick restart killed the Union.

Toronto were fouled in the 70th minute, and many of the Union players were annoyed with the call. TFC took advantage with a quick restart. A ball played into the box caught the Union off-guard, and Justin Morrow slotted home a goal to give Toronto the lead. The furious Union players were more focused on arguing with Geiger then they were defending TFC’s attack. Philly conceded a soft goal, and were down. Would they be like they were in 2016 and fold, or show grit and determination to find the equalizer?

four minutes after conceding a goal that would have finished them last season, the Union found the equalizer. Herbers was on the ball in the middle of the field with space to run at Toronto’s back line. He played a ball through the line, and an on rushing CJ Sapong was through. He ran past the keeper, and put the ball in the open net to tie the game. The Union found their equalizer, and then shut the game down. The last 15 minutes both teams bent but didn’t break. The game ended 2-2!

This result was a good one for the Union; they still haven’t lost, and their goal difference isn’t negative. Would they have loved to get three points at home? Yes. Will they take the point against the best team in the east? Yes. This team has grit and determination, the results against Vancouver away and Toronto home will help them progress this season. So who were the standouts from this match?

Jay Simpson and CJ Sapong scored the games goals from up top and both showed that they will be viable options for the team moving forward. Simpson showed great hold up play versus the big TFC center backs, a trait usually held by Sapong. Sapong showed great running off the shoulders of the center backs, which is usually Simpson’s strong-suit. These strikers are learning from each other and have great camaraderie, which will pay dividends for the Union’s attack in 2017.

Oguchi Onyewu had another strong showing. He kept Giovinco and Altidore in check, and showed good ability to stop attack and start the build up for the Union. His play has been a revelation so far, let’s see if he can keep it up.

Derrick Jones was the standout player again in the Union’s midfield. His physicality and smart plays helped the Union on both sides of the ball. He will be the next star player for the Union! How do I know this? because of one particular sequence against Toronto. Jones found the ball in the middle of the field, was forced wide basically carrying a TFC player on his back. He shrugged off the tackle, to be pursued by another defender; this time, he was brought down. With a free kick awarded, he arose fired up, waving his arms to pump up the crowd. The Union have found their long-term number eight in Derrick Jones.

The Union did well against the best-of-the-best in the east this weekend. They’ll need to do even better next weekend on the road at Orlando to stay high up in the east.

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To quickly mention the spat between Bedoya and Altidore, the whole thing has been blown out of context. Bedoya gave an answer to a question asked by the media. Here video of it:

Jozy responded to the comments in a tweet, that is now deleted. From memory, Jozy says Bedoya has a lot to say, but never to his face, and that he shouldn’t be surprised by that, but he was. In other words Jozy felt hurt by the words he heard out of context. Bedoya responded the same night with this comment:

These two will be fine come USMNT World Cup qualifying time, in the mean time lets please not make this more than it actually is!

The Union go to Orlando this coming weekend. They had the last week off due to bad weather in New England last week. The Union will need to bring their A-game down south to face a well rested team in their new fortress. Be on the look out for a Recap of all the week 2 action, A note on the recognition Philly Sports Network’s Instagram content got on its first weekend covering Union home matches, and a preview of the Orland match. Until then, peace out Union fans!

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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