The floodgates open as the Union defeats TFC 3-0
The Union started their game against Toronto FC in poor form which dropped them to fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Philly’s main problem seemed to be their offense which couldn’t score more than once in close games. Union coach Jim Curtin mentioned it during his midweek press conference. He said if a goal is scored early, the floodgates will open. This is exactly what happened when the Union beat TFC 3-0.
Union scores three points to beat Toronto in much-needed win
The Union played what is arguably their best game of the 2021 MLS season so far on Wednesday night against Toronto. While possession was split 50-50, Philly generally doesn’t want to gain that possession statistic. They care more about winning duels and creating chances.
That’s what they dominated against Toronto. Philly won 53 of 91 matches in this game; they ruled Toronto when they faced them. This included winning 10 of 19 tackles they attempted. The team’s defense was robbed as was their offense.
The Union 13 real chances on goal while shooting 17 shots, including seven on target. Of these seven shots that were on frame, three have entered! The offense clicked and scored all three goals in different ways. What could have been most impressive was that all three goals were scored in 24 minutes!
The floodgates open for this Union attack
Jim Curtin was clairvoyant in his presser midweek Tuesday, talking about opening the floodgates if his team could find a goal against Toronto. On Wednesday night, his team showed the intensity, determination and frankness that were lacking in the last matches. This led to three goals scored in three different ways.
The first goal came from a corner. A nice ball was played into the box by Gazdag, and Glesness ran to meet it. He skied over his defender and hit the ball with the back of his head. The Norweigan had enough to pass Alex Bono and put Philly ahead in the 12th minute.
The next goal came from some fine Union play. They were looking to extend their lead in the 32nd minute by playing in the center of the Toronto box. The effort did not take off, but the ball bounced off Sergio Santos’ feet. Santos passed his mark in the box and tried to get around Bono to score. The Toronto goalie came out and cut Sergio’s heels. The referee rightly indicated the spot for a penalty. The ball was finally handed over to newcomer Gazdag. He tossed the perfect pen at home over Bono’s outstretched arms.
Not three minutes after the Union got their second, they got their third. This time for a streak that started in their own half. A wayward Toronto pass was picked up by “El Brujo” Martinez. He then had a lot of space in the middle of the park to move forward. He took a touch, raised his head and saw Santos on the back shoulder of Toronto center-back Omar Gonzalez. El Brujo put a perfect 30-yard ball at the feet of Santos who was in goal. He took two touches, entered the box and placed the perfect finish in front of Bono.
It was 3-0 Union after 36 minutes. Philly took that lead in the second half where they held on to finally win. Thanks to excellent defense and goalkeeper.
A blank sheet and confidence for the bottom line
The Union’s tendency to score goals in the first fifteen minutes of half-time was a worrying trend that did not occur on Wednesday night. Now that the mid-season has passed, the Union need their back line tidy to maintain their offense in games. the brilliance of goalkeeper Andre Blake can help with that as well. This match could be a building block for this unit to be strong from the start and for 90 minutes.
The Union didn’t give Toronto many chances in the first half, especially in the opening 15 minutes. The team’s counterpressure and one-on-one defense were perfect. Toronto only really looked threatening at one point in the game and it was the start of the second half.
Within the opening fifteen minutes of the second half, Toronto picked up the pace, throwing numbers forward to try to get into the game. It worked in their favor as they received a very soft penalty in the 51st minute. It looked like Jack Elliot had won the ball from Richie Larayea, but the referee awarded a penalty. The new offensive threat Yeferson Soteldo grew stronger, but couldn’t grasp the effort as Andre Blake stood!
The penalty saves effectively ended all of Toronto’s scoring hopes as the Union continued to press them and not allow Toronto to combine or strengthen their attack. It was really a great effort on the part of the number one starting team in the Union.
This is the preferred starting XI to move forward
Jim Curtin has spoken of playing his best eleven in that game against Toronto. He mentioned the game as part of a three-game streak that included this Toronto game, the New England game this weekend and the CCL semi-final first leg next week. That’s probably because Curtin wants some, if not all, of his best team to rest when that team plays on the New England turf next Sunday. Curtin appears to be prioritizing the CCL semi-final game over a showdown with the best team in the East in New England. Expect to see the kids playing on Sunday, what an opportunity that will be.
Speaking of Homegrowns, it looks like the trio of Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan and Paxten Aaronson are ready to trust the minutes of play for this Union side. Curtin mentioned not trusting his youth earlier this season, but now that’s another story. These three youngsters got minutes and looked dangerous against Toronto. Could this trio lead a Union midfielder to New England and somehow take points away from the 2021 fans who protect first? They will have this opportunity, as it looks like a strong team rotation is imminent.
Philly will play the first round of the CCL Semifinals against Club America in the historic Azteca Stadium in a week from today! Curtin mentioned that the team that started against Toronto is their best team. Therefore, there should be significant rotations in New England to keep this starting group fresh for what will be the biggest game in club history. If the majority of those normal starters start on the turf in New England, they will be at a higher risk of injury. So what will Curtin do?
Philly moved up to third in the East with a win on Wednesday night. They are also one point away from second place. They are able to compete for the Eastern Summit on Sunday against favorites New England. Will Curtin rest all of his starters for the CCL semi-finals, replace a few players, or play with his number one starting squad? This is the tense decision he must make as we move into what could be the two most important games of the Union’s 2021 campaign.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union via Instagram