Union / Union match reports

A blow-by-blow of Toronto-Philadelphia

“They say it takes some time,” the commentator said in regard to the hold of Toronto’s new all grass pitch, but he could very well have been referring to the maturation process of the Philadelphia Union: Captain Danny Califf received a straight red to match the yellow he received in the opening minute of the match against Seattle, and while keeper Chris Seitz shouldn’t receive much blame for the game winning penalty awarded due to his foul in the 78th minute, the Union were lucky to escape the referees ire after a take-down in the box in the 57th minute.

The match began with the endless red masses of Toronto FC fans clamoring to reinforce the sentiment of a hastily unfurled giant banner: ‘Win You Must’ it read, the home fans brimming with impatience over a lackluster start and an ever rotating cast of players.

The goal keepers showed amateur colors right off the start, with Dwayne De Rosario and Alejandro Moreno getting tantalizing sniffs at either end, with the Toronto keeper, Stefan Frei, following the latter chance by nearly giving away a goal.

In the 9th minute, Toronto’s target man, De Rosario, was well offside for service from mid, but certainly there would be many more attempts sent his way. Quickly thereafter another go at finding him resulted in a corner, which was nearly headed in to the opposite post.

Subsequently, Julián De Guzman nearly did damage on striking a rebound.

The Union responded by rushing up field with Fred serving the ball nicely to Le Toux whose effort was negated by two defenders at the top of the box.

Toronto then made the first of two reckless fouls, either one of which the ref would have been justified in responding in a much sterner fashion. The first was a studs up near horror tackle that resulted in yellow for Toronto’s Raivis Hscanovic. Cristian Arrieta was lucky to have jumped away from the worst of it.

At the 20th minute young Roger Torres bent a set piece nicely but over-hit it to the right of the keeper. Torres soon settled in, with his service becoming superlative at times throughout the night. Expect great things from this dynamic 18 year old who should feature heavily for his native Colombia.

A minute later, the lackadaisical play we’ve seen off and on from The Union in terms of fouls or errant passes – yes, they’re still learning – came back as a lazy back pass to Seitz from the defense nearly led to easy poaching by Rosario.

Toronto FC, equally battling their own short-comings, soon conceded their second defensive yellow with a reckless tackle on Moreno by Maksim Usanov. Both fouls were as uncalled for as the balls of trash thrown at Torres during a corner kick later in the match.

A nicely orchestrated short corner delivered to Torres led to a ripping shot from Andrew Jacobsen that would have gone in if not for hitting a defender. Then in the 30th, Arrieta – though not as deft as Torres, adjusted from discordant service to show fine crossing at times – sent a beautiful cross through the box that dropped harmlessly through by the back post, just ahead of Union forwards.

Then it went embarrassingly ugly, with Danny Califf ejected for a clear foul. Following a light backpass to the keeper, he chopped down Guzman on his run towards the ball. Sure Guzman may have sold it a bit, but you can’t blame the ref on this one, just Califf. To exacerbate things immensely, De Rosario scored on the resulting free kick in the 35th minute via a gaffe by keeper Seitz. The low shot somehow troubled Seitz, who should have dropped to the pitch to easily eat up the ball.

The unraveling seemed set to continue as Stefani Miglioranzi drew a yellow shortly thereafter for upending a player by the sideline. De Rosario nearly slotted home following a nice run and jump to meet the ensuing well-struck set piece ball with a deft flick.

But in the 40th minute the Union came back with a spark of life, Torres continuing to show his fine delivery on set pieces with a ball that two Union players just missed by the back post. And just when it looked like Toronto was going to silence that spirit – following a De Guzman shot that would have proved dangerous if not for a timely block at the top of the box and Toronto harrying the Union defense from both wings – the Union charged out of their end, the play culminating in a Le Toux to Moreno give and go before Torres supplied a ball up and over the Toronto defense to a streaking Harvey who made no mistake of it, cutting the ball across the net past the hopeless keeper, giving Torres his second assist on the season (He set up Le Toux’s first goal last week with a well crafted cross.)

So, even down a man, things were looking well for the Union at the start of the second. Torres, following some more deft service on a corner kick, expertly cut back on his man to find Le Toux for a header that dropped at the keepers feet, forcing a quick low save.

Arrieta stifled the Toronto FC counter attack twice by winning a header and then edging out Chad Barret, who would continue to make his presence felt after coming off the bench at the half.

In the 53rd, Seitz did well to knock away a Guzman ball that dipped in front of him from distance, though he certainly could have reined in the ball – clearly, the maturation process is going to continue. The positive in this match was that he adequately regained form and aggression following a dismal effort on the first goal of the match (even with the pk on the second goal, his assertiveness was spot on, as the separation between foul and clean play was nearly indistinct).

Barret, looking like Brian McBride, nearly headed home a brilliant Guzman cross in the 54th minute, sending it wide of the left post, the adrenaline making subtitles unnecessary as he rebuked himself.

Barret was soon involved once again – just in the wrong way. As a set piece ball came dangerously close to the right post, Barret equalized the number of players on the field by taking out his teammate Amadou Sanyang with an elbow while nearly heading home. Sanyang would be subbed out in the 60th.

Toronto FC was then cheated by bad officiating – as we were last Saturday – when their striker was held and taken off balance in the box, with the officials simply looking on.

Dan Gargan’s hamstring issues in the 67th minute once again leveled the numbers on the field, with Toronto FC having made all their changes. The physio’s touch must have worked since he was back on the field a few moments later. As Toronto rushed to the top of the box, their subsequent chance – a beautiful De Rosario bicycle kick fed by a Union defender’s ill advised backwards header across the box – troubled the Union though it went several feet wide.

Nick La Broca’s corner was placed just off the near post by Gargan. Every Union fan held their breath as Seitz was forced to make a routine stop on the ensuing play. The relief was short lived, however, as a Seitz charge on yet another Toronto drive resulted in a PK being awarded to the red shirts. Barret had delivered a world class chip close to midfield that cut through two defenders and was charged onto by a streaking O’Brian White. White made contact a split second before the keeper took him down with his dive for the ball. De Rosario buryied the PK to the upper left past a diving Seitz for his second goal of the match.

The Union hardly folded. Miglioranzi, after chesting and forcefully charging forward with the ball, passed back to Arrieta in the upper right corner of the box in the 83rd, his shot well struck yet harmlessly high as it cut across the net. Le Toux then looked certain to add to his already high season tally, though he was firmly denied a shot in the area.

Philly rushed up at the beginning of extra time, their attack only producing a counter luckily thwarted by Barret’s willingness to pass to an offside De Rosario after he streaked forward onto the ball to once again trouble the Philadelphia defense. All in all they played well at 10 men. The Union went to a 5-3-1 in the second half after initially employing a 3-5-1 following Califf’s exit. Though the defense is clearly still on a learning curve, they’ll have more practice next Saturday against the Red Bulls, trying to shore up their back line without their captain as he sits out the match due to automatic suspension.

One Comment

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