Jim Curtin and his Philadelphia Union team traveled north of the border Thursday afternoon in hopes of what would be a meaningful road result Friday night leading to more as head coach Jim Curtin and his team began a three match road trip. Instead, they suffered a 3-0 blowout loss at the hands of fellow Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC, a team fresh off major CONCACAF Champions League disappointment.
A Toronto FC goal within the first 30 minutes of the match placed Philadelphia on their heels early and often. Victor Vazquez netted Toronto’s first goal after superstar Sebastian Giovinco noticed Philadelphia’s left back Ray Gaddis pinching too far towards the middle of the field. Giovinco sprayed a ball along the left-wing for his teammate Nicolas Hasler who easily found Vazquez in front of the six-yard box for an easy goal. The back line positioning for Philadelphia was exposed a few times thanks to the vision and off-ball movement of their coveted Giovinco.
The last ten to fifteen minutes of the first half surprisingly favored Philadelphia as they created meaningful chances in the attacking third. A 34th minute chance saw Bedoya floating into the box on a late attacking run only to see he shot saved by the outstretched right hand of Toronto keeper Alex Bono. Bedoya received a wonderful chipped pass from Borek Dockal to set up his shot. The midfield creativity of Philadelphia displayed itself here and there but was nowhere near substantial enough to truly threaten Toronto Friday night.
Toronto FC’s second goal, the one that virtually sealed the victory for the Canadian club, occurred thanks to a boneheaded mistake by veteran Philadelphia midfielder Haris Medunjanin. Medunjanin received a pass from defender Jack Elliot in anticipation of a long diagonal ball to launch either Bedoya or a streaking Keegan Rosenberry down the right flank. However, Medunjanin mis-hit his ball and left it well short of his mark. The speedy Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio jumped at the chance of a turnover, flew down the field unmarked, slid a pass over to Giovinco allowing him to undress Elliot 1v1 and beat Union keeper Andre Blake with a low hard hit shot for Toronto’s second goal.
Prior to the surprising mental error by Medunjanin, Philadelphia did very well to build up their attacking pieces. Medunjanin picked his head up to see five different Union players pressing high against Toronto’s back line. Seemingly simple enough, Medunjanin needed to kick his diagonal ball much deeper down the field in hopes of allowing Rosenberry to run onto it. Instead the Bosnian’s hopeful diagonal ball fell way short.
Toronto’s third goal occurred in the 89th minute after Bedoya lost the ball in Philadelphia’s attacking half. Toronto jumped on the loose ball and forced their way up the field in transition. Philadelphia was pressing high in hopes of earning a goal back which allowed a relatively easy goal as the result, not much Blake could do to prevent it.
1) Clinical play improved… but not enough:
If you ask Curtin and the rest of his technical staff if they think their club is capable of playing an attractive, attacking brand of soccer, they will tell you with the utmost certainty they can. Flashes of that attractive style have been evident all year. However, flashes of stylish and effective soccer really is not quite enough for Philadelphia. If Philadelphia possessed the ability to finish the chances created from the fleeting moments of well-connected offensive soccer, then their game day approach would work fine. But, the glaring weakness rests in their inability to capitalize on what they create. And as time ticks on each match without a goal, they are forced to increase their pressure which results in less help for a young, untested back line grouping.
That clinical play was brilliant when it did occur though. Ilsinho did well yet again by continuously moving with and without the ball to create 2v1 advantages at times which truly placed Toronto on their heels for significant stretches of the match. But the final connective tissue remains the missing piece of the puzzle for Philadelphia as goals continue to be hard to come about.
2) Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers:
Whether you analyze turnovers in the run of play via errant passes or brief moments throughout the match where possession should be won but instead is lost continue to be detrimental for Philadelphia as wins are few and far between.
Opponents have realized a winning game plan against Philadelphia. They notice now, the best way to play against Philadelphia is to simply defend and counter. With clinical precision taking too long to develop early on throughout the season, teams like Toronto can simply keep their defensive shape and wait for a Union mistake. Once the mistake happens, like the misplayed Medunjanin diagonal ball, teams jump on the loose balls and push numbers forward creating an obvious counter attacking advantage. Curtin and his staff should do well to analyze the tape in hopes of recognizing how teams decide to defend against his high-pressure system of play.
3) Where art thou? David Accam’s scoring boots edition:
When Philadelphia soccer fans first caught wind of the Accam signing prior to the season starting, most felt a sense of relief knowing that a player with the ability to put balls in the net consistently will once again be suiting up for the Union. However, Accam has yet to score a single goal. In fact, he failed to play a full 90 minutes in each of the last five matches after Curtin decided to yank him each match.
I’m not sure what fans should be more worried about: Accam’s lack of scoring and creativity or the fact he is continually replaced late in matches when goals are of the highest priority. More times than not, when a coach makes a substitution, the player he removes from the pitch isn’t doing enough to warrant continued play. Accam and his lack of scoring is something fans should pay close attention to throughout the next month of play.
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!
Follow our writers on Twitter:
Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports