Match Recap and Takeaways: Union tally 3rd consecutive clean sheet, but can’t find winner against visiting Toronto FC

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

It was a scoreless stalemate at Subaru Park on Wednesday night between 2 of Major League Soccer’s best goal-scoring teams: Jim Curtin’s Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC. After consecutive clean sheets and positive results on the road, Union returned to Subaru Park on short rest looking to put 3 points in their pocket at Subaru Park for the first time since March 30th, but the two teams traded chances, canceled each other out, and each walked away with a point mid-week when all was said and done.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union Starting XI

Julian Carranza was a late scratch from Wednesday night’s game against Toronto due to injury, which meant some changes for Jim Curtin’s Union side who was hoping to build off consecutive clean sheets on the road. Here’s how Union lined up against Toronto without Juliana Carranza available.

GK – Oliver Semmle
RB – Nate Hariel, CB – Jack Elliot, CB – Jakob Glesnes, LB – Kai Wagner
CDM – Leon Flach
RCM – Ale Bedoya, LCM: Jack McGlynn
CAM – Daniel Gazdag
ST – Quinn Sullivan, ST – Mikael Uhre

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

First Half

Toronto came out against Union in a back-5 of sorts with Federico Bernardeschi playing Right Back, getting up the pitch while Toronto possessed the ball and stepping into the backline to create a block in front of a Carranza-less Union attack.

Bernardeschi showed his willingness to jump forward in the attack just 3 minutes in when he turned the corner around Jack Elliott out of the right flank, but Elliott recovered and put in a sliding tackle to clear the ball out of play before Bernardeschi could make a play into the center of the box. In the 16th minute, Quinn Sullivan connected with Mikael Uhre on a nice give-and-go which gave him along the left just inside the penalty area, but his ball across the face of goal was deflected out of play as well.

Union survived another couple of close calls later in the 2nd half, thanks to a Semmle save and a miss on an open net by Bernardeschi. Around the 23rd minute, Union turned the ball over in the midfield which allowed Toronto an opportunity to get forward with numbers. The ball eventually found its way to Derrick Etienne Jr. at the top of the penalty area, but his shot attempted was deflected just wide of the post to Semmle’s left side.

In the 42nd minute, Toronto got their best chance of the game when a ball worked down the left side of the pitch and eventually found Federico Bernardeschi inside the box with an open net in front of him, but Bernardeschi’s shot attempt sailed over the net and into the River End.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union


It was more of the same in the second half – each team creating chances but being canceled out by solid defense on the other side of the ball. Bernardeschi got a chance a few minutes into the 2nd half when Toronto turned Union over in their own half. Toronto got the ball to Bernarderschi on the right side of the field who got a step on Jack Elliott as he entered into the penalty area, but Bernardeschi’s stab attempt toward the far post fizzled wide and out to safety.

Union’s best chance of the game to find a winner came in the 51st minute when Kai Wagner sent a cross towards Ale Bedoya at the far post. Bedoya got a strong header on the ball but the attempt was met by a well-positioned Sean Johnson, making the save and keeping the game level at 0.

Union’s final attempt at finding an equalizer came in stoppage time as Jose Martinez drove down the right side of the pitch and into the penalty area. Martinez whipped a strong cross through the middle of the penalty area, but his attempt to find a Union shirt was canceled out by a Toronto defender, and the game would end in a 0-0 draw.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Postgame thoughts and takeaways

1) 3 consecutive clean sheets and counting

It’s the 3rd consecutive clean sheet in a row for this Union team which is an easy positive to take away from tonight’s game. Previous to this 3-game clean sheet stretch, Union had achieved just 1 shutout all season and had conceded multiple goals in all but 4 of their 15 games.

Union really should feel good about keeping their opponents off the board once again, especially after being the victim of their own mistakes during a stretch of 6 games without a win. And all of this has been done without Andre Blake. Could you imagine where this team would be without Oliver Semmle as their backup keeper?

2) Now that the defense is solid, what about the attack?

Prior to Saturday’s game in Charlotte, Union was the only team in MLS yet to be shut out. But now, after tonight’s 0-0 draw against Toronto, Union has failed to score a goal in consecutive MLS games for the first time since early April of 2023 (0-0 against SKC, 1-0 against FCC). Jim Curtin said in his post-game press conference that the team needs to find balance and a way to create their own luck.

“We’re not quite at the halfway point [of the season], but it’s too extreme. We’re not an extreme group where we go on these runs where we score a ton of goals but we’re conceding a ton, that’s not us. Now we’re not conceding and we’re not really creating a ton. It’s too extreme, and it’s not really where the Philadelphia Union’s badge of consistency over the last 5-6 seasons now has gotten us where we are. I don’t want to be a team that runs hot and cold”

Head Coach, Jim Curtin

Curtin mentioned the team will work hard to put a full performance together on Saturday so that they can put balls in the net against Montreal and end on a high note before the guys go away for International duty.

3) Carranza’s absence isn’t anything to worry about – for now

When the lineup dropped and Julian Carranza was nowhere to be found, people immediately started to speculate it had something to do with the rumors of Dutch side Feyenoord being interested in the Argentinian forward. Jim Curtin was quick to put any rumors to rest, citing Carrana’z absence due to a small injury he picked up against Charlotte that’s sticking around a little longer than expected.

“He just wasn’t feeling right…I know timing-wise it looks…ya know…you guys read all the transfer rumors and that kind of stuff but Julian has a real knock on that ankle. I’d tell ya the truth, trust me, if he was gone I’d tell ya that too, there’s nothing for me to lie about. He’s still our player, at least for the rest of the year. The hope is he’s fine for Saturday, we’ll see – he’ll get treatment.”

Head Coach, Jim Curtin

4) A tactical switch coming?

When asked about their ability to play with Wingers when everyone is healthy, Jim Curtin didn’t necessarily sound confident that his team would thrive in that formation, but he did recognize how there could be the need for a tactical tweak in the future

“We don’t have wingers on the roster really, we don’t scout that. Are there guys that are capable of doing it? I think so, I still think we have some guys that have the workmate, the creativity in the attack that it could suit them. So yeah, it’s something we can still consider and do, and again there’s a unique way you could do it right? You could play with winger on the right side and maybe on the left, he’s a little tucked in a looks like a bit like a 10. So we can adjust, we’re gonna have to [with the players leaving on international duty this Summer].”

Head Coach, Jim Curtin

5) The Curse of Union Yards continues.

OK. So we didn’t lose. But that’s 5 games since the opening of Union’s newest Brew Hall down at Subaru Park without a win. 0W-1D-4L in 5 games, yikes. But again, at least we didn’t make it 5 consecutive losses at home tonight. Will Union fans ever get to enjoy $5 Dogfish Head beers at Union Yards after a Union win??

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Looking Forward

The draw brings Union to a record of 4W-7D-4L for 19 points, good enough to currently sit at the #8 spot in the Eastern Conference and #17 in the supporters shield standings. The most disappointing thing about this current run of form at home is that Union came into this stretch of 6 of 8 games at home as Major League Soccer’s only undefeated team, and had 2 points in hand. But after tonight’s 0-0 draw, it’s another opportunity to bank 3 points at home loss. Thank God Union is somehow unbeaten on the road this season.

Before a handful of important players take off for international duty, the Union have one more chance to pocket 3 points at home with their full lineup against CF Montreal on Saturday night. Union will come into this game on the back of 3 consecutive clean sheets, which will be tested by a Montreal team that scored 4 goals against a 10-man DC midweek. Nothing is a must-win in late May in MLS, but with so many important names taking off this summer – temporary or otherwise – Union NEEDS to win Saturday night.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Match Notes

3rd – Bernardeschi tries to turn the corner around Jack Elliott inside the penalty area but Elliott makes a great sliding tackle which deflects off Bernardeschi for a goal kick

16th – Sullivan and Uhre pay a nice give-and-go in the box, but Sullivan’s cross through the penalty area is deflected out for a corner

19th – Toronto’s Matty Longstaff receives the ball inside the box and puts a low-cross through the middle of the penalty area, but Jack Elliott clears it away from danger

23rd – Glesnes gives the ball up and his own half and Toronto goes the other way. Toronto’s Etienne JR. got off a shot that deflected just wide of a diving Oliver Semmle

25th – Yellow Card shown to Union’s Ale Bedoya

27th – SAVE BY SEMMLE! Toronto works the ball inside the box and gets a shot off from within 12 yards out, but Oliver Semmle makes a huge diving save

42nd – Toronto works the ball down the left side of the pitch and into the box, eventually finding Bernardeschi with an open net, but his one-time attempt sails over the post and into the River End

44th – Kai Wagner lets a left-footed shot fly from outside the penalty area, but his attempt goes well wide of the post to Johnsons’s left side

45th – End of the first half, the teams go into the half-time break even at 0.

46th – the 2nd half is underway

49th – Toronto turns Union over in the midfield and send Bernardeschi the other way on the attack. Bernardeschi gets a step on Elliott inside the box, but his attempt to stab the ball to the far post goes just wide and out for a corner.

51st minute – Ale Bedoya gets the best chance of the game so far on a header from a ball to the back post by Kai Wagner, but Johnson makes the saves

67th – Toronto asks for a penalty as one of their attackers is pulled down in the box, but no penalty is awarded

68th – Quinn Sullivan has a great first touch on a long ball sent his way to get behind the defense, but his shot on net was blocked out for a corner

81st – Bernardeschi gets the ball inside the penalty area but his shot is straight at Oliver Semmle

90th – 3 minutes of stoppage time is displayed by the 4th official

92nd – Jose Martinez crosses the ball in the box but it’s sent out of play

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union