An important wake-up call: Union lose 2-1 to TFC

The Philadelphia Union lost their first match of the 2022 season this past weekend at Toronto. They fought hard but lost 2-1. The Union had the chance to draw, and even win this match, but fell short in the end. A poor performance from Philly could be the wake-up call they need to keep their remarkable start to this season going!

Wake-up call
CHESTER, PA – AUGUST 01: The official issues a yellow card to Philadelphia Union Defender Jakob Glesnes (5) during the first half of a Major League Soccer match between the Chicago Fire FC and the Philadelphia Union on August 1, 2021, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

A wake-up call of a loss

After a strange series of scoring first, a yellow that should have been a red card for Toronto, and a disallowed goal, the Union tasted defeat for the first time this season. It was an uncharacteristically sloppy night for some mainstays on the team as the normally stellar defense was at fault for both goals. Let’s take a look back at what caused the defeat, and also why this match could just be a small blip that functions as a wake-up call to this historically good Union team.

Poor defense leads to TFC’s two goals

The Union was able to get the game’s first goal but failed to hold onto the lead for long at all. Five minutes after Gazdag, Uhre, and Carranza combined for the game’s opening goal. Toronto was able to equalize. The Union failed to clear the ball out of their own half when Jose Martinez played a lazy ball up the middle of the pitch.

Johnathan Osorio was able to get on the ball with lots of space around him. He played a few one-twos with Jesus Jimenez, and no Union defender wanted to lunge in to give away a penalty. The problem was that Jimenez had space to shoot and picked a perfect spot to beat Andre Blake. It was very reactive from the Union which is uncharacteristic, and it happened in the second half as well.

Just five minutes into the second half Toronto found the game-winning goal. Alejandro Pozuelo worked his magic to get the goal, but the Union again was not active enough defensively. Pozuelo made a good run in between Daniel Gazdag and Jose Martinez, he was able to run toward the box looking to create a chance at goal.

Gazdag and Martinez both stuck legs out to try to deter Pozuelo, but he danced right by them. Neither put a body on him for fear again of giving away a penalty. Jack Elliot was stuck by Pozuelo’s run into the box as he was taking away what would have been an easy goal at the near post. The problem is, that he gave Pozuelo the time and space to pick out the far corner. He did so beating Blake who again was in a good spot, but couldn’t beat the perfectly placed shot.

The defending was quite poor and was the reason Toronto got all three points. Those two chances were TFC’s most dangerous moments and goes to show that killer attacking players only need one chance to make you pay. As for the Union, they were really taken out of their game back in the 20th minute of the match.

Caught up in the moment

In the 20th minute, the moment of the match occurred. Jayden Nelson came flying into a challenge on the Union’s Kai Wagner. Wagner saw the challenge coming, pulled up ever so slightly, but still got studs just below his knee. The referee gave a yellow, and VAR didn’t look at it for a possible red card, which enraged the Union. The challenge was reckless, and it threw Philly off completely.

They were definitely right to be upset, as a 20th-minute red card would have completely swung the game in their direction. Philly fought to get things back under control and did score first, but their composure defensively was shot after the challenge.

It got even worse when the Union thought they had a banger of a second goal to retake the lead. Wagner hit a rocket into the net, but VAR looked at the chance and took it off the board as Julian Carranza interfered ever-so-slightly with the keeper. In the end, this match was won by Toronto taking their chances, and the Union switching off in dire moments, and not converting their own chances.

Taking the wake-up call

While the match didn’t go Philly’s way, the underlying numbers of the match were in favor of the Union. The team was on the front foot for most of the match, but still had trouble getting the ball in the back of the net. While that can still be seen as a concern, the Union’s attack showed promise on the night, especially the front three of Uhre, Carranza, and Gazdag.

Those three combined nicely to get the Union’s goal. Uhre got his first goal contribution with the assist. Carranza scored his second goal with the Union and Gazdag got a secondary assist as well. These three need to really gel over the next few weeks as the Union’s schedule gets a bit more hectic. While this is the first loss of the season and is a match that the Union could have taken points from, it’s important to take this wake-up call as a learning moment for this team.

Philly is still the top team in the eastern conference after the loss; they’re two points up with a game in hand on second-place Orlando. They’ll need to take this loss as a wake-up call, and there’s no reason they won’t. Jim Curtin and the players themselves know how good they are. Taking notes of a tough road loss, and coming together to get one back in the win collum this coming week is on the agenda.

Philly returns home this weekend to take on CF Montreal. Will they be able to take the wake-up call to find their composure and correct the defensive mistakes against a rising Montreal side? The odds will be in their favor to do so as the Union are still tied on points for the top spot in all of MLS!

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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

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