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The Union wrap: 2-1 loss to Toronto

When you get good games from nine of your positions, you should win. That Philadelphia Union lost 2-1 to Toronto FC should give you a sense of just how bad the other two positions produced in Thursday night’s match.

Center backs Danny Califf and Shavar Thomas had disastrous games, as did goalkeeper Chris Seitz, and it cost the Union the match against a team they were clearly better than. Toronto brought absolutely nothing in the first half. Even after O’Brian White and Chad Barrett entered the game at halftime and transformed the second half, it still wasn’t enough to get Toronto a goal in the run of play. This Toronto team is not good. But the Union made the mistakes that gifted them the game.

So what did we learn about the Union tonight?

  • Danny Califf throws an elbow like Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

It started with a weak back pass. Then he tried to cover it up by knocking out Julian de Guzman. Obvious red card. With an elbow like that, all I could think of was, “Snap into a Slim Jim!” Against Seattle, he took all of 30 seconds to pick up the Union’s first ever booking. We’re starting to see how the Union got three guys tossed in a friendly this year. Now we have two red cards in three regular season games.

  • Maybe we shouldn’t have believed the hype about Chris Seitz.

He wasn’t asked to do much tonight, and he definitely didn’t. Starting goalkeepers should stop a free kick right at them. They shouldn’t draw penalties. Yep, he’s only 23. Yep, it’s only three games. So yep, we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt. But it’s not looking too pretty, is it?

  • The Union have two very good fullbacks.

Cristian Arrieta and Jordan Harvey both had very good games, creating all sorts of problems for Toronto down the flanks and putting in a solid performance on defense. Arrieta was a consistent crossing threat, and he nearly put one on Sebastien Le Toux’s nose for a goal. Harvey had a great run and a great touch that led to his goal. If there’s anywhere on the field where the Union may have their starters set for the next two to three years, it’s at fullback.

  • Fred and Roger Torres can create a dangerous attack.

The Union dominated the first 34 minutes, and then they continued to press the attack even when down a man, at least until Torres was subbed out. Imagine if they didn’t have to play a man down for most of the game. Two creative midfielders, both deft and creative with the ball.

  • Peter Nowak’s seeing what NFL coordinators see.

Yeah, I heard too: He’s in mourning. But also take note that it’s a very different game from up high. You can see movement on the field better, gauge width, recognize movements on a broader scale. I think Nowak’s on to something up there that has as much to do with coaching as it does with the deaths of his countryman. There’s a reason that most NFL teams put their offensive coordinators up in the booth high above the field. You see a lot more.

  • Shavar Thomas dropped a stink bomb of epic proportions.

It’d be pretty hard to have a worse game than Thomas had. He got booked for a sloppy tackle, got away with a penalty he should’ve been called for, and then let O’Brian White blow right down the middle of the field to put Seitz in position to commit the penalty. Even with Califf suspended for the April 24 game against the New York Red Bulls, Thomas might not get off the bench.

Player ratings

Chris Seitz: 3
Another shaky game for Seitz, and this time it cost the Union points in the standings.

Jordan Harvey: 7
Solid game both ways, with a beautiful touch on his goal. Was back with Thomas when White split them for the penalty, but that’s more on Thomas than Harvey.

Michael Orozco: 6
Pretty active, didn’t make any mistakes that stood out.

Danny Califf: 3
Might have a future in UFC if this soccer thing doesn’t work out. His lazy back passes to Seitz are what led to the red card. Will be missed against the Red Bulls because, bottom line, he’s still a very good center back.

Cristian Arrieta: 7
Active on the attack. It’s just a matter of time before the forwards start connecting with his good crosses.

Roger Torres: 8
Beautiful pass to Harvey for an assist on the Union goal. Changes directions like he’s Barry Sanders. When he left the game, everything changed for the Union.

Andrew Jacobson: 7
Very good game for Jacobson. Had good movement, kept the short passing game flowing, had some good looks from distance, did the necessary ball-winning.

Stefani Miglioranzi: 6
Did the little things. Quietly good game. Probably didn’t deserve the yellow card he drew.

Fred: 7
Consistently at the heart of the Union’s attack. Toronto had no answer for him. If they weren’t down a man, the Union might have scored three goals, largely because of Fred and Torres.

Alejandro Moreno: 5
Marginalized after Califf’s ejection.

Sebastien Le Toux: 6
Hustled well on defense, active on the attack before Califf’s ejection. Had a good header on goal.


Shavar Thomas: 1
See above. I didn’t like Torres coming out of the game when he did, but on paper, it made sense to go to a 4-4-1. Assistant coach John Hackworth couldn’t have known how badly Thomas would play.

Amobi Okugo: 4
Some sloppy touches, a poor shot on goal, but no major problems. Got a brief run, and that’s good for the teenager for now.

(Photo: Philadelphia Union)


  1. Well, quite the up-and-down night. Before we got our red card, they really should have had one for a terrible tackle that could have broken somebody’s leg, if it had been planted. (I forget whose–Arrieta’s? Harvey’s?) Cailiff’s red card was a stupid foul, that was an obvious call, even if De Guzman made a meal of it. The captain should really know better. Plus, he didn’t need to do it–the pass was getting to Seitz. Does any one know–is it just a one-game ban? As for Seitz, I want to give him a long leash, because from all we’ve heard, he has huge potential. He spilled the free kick, I think, because he was already thinking about what he was going to do next, instead of wrapping the ball up–something he did much better as the game went on. These are all things you learn with experience, but the Union want to win games, and you can’t lose too many of them because of your keeper before a change must be made. It’s not time yet, but we’ll see. (Incidentally, on the PK, I have a hard time blaming Seitz. That’s the classic way to draw a PK, and he was very, very close to getting a touch on the ball. Could he have come out sooner? Maybe.) I have to say, though, my biggest irk of the night, looking back, was the substitution of Roger Torres. Even down a man, after our equalizer, I was confident we could go on and win–that’s how much better we were than Toronto–but taking Torres off eliminated all our flow. Even so, if Le Toux’s header, which was actually quite good–low and hard and toward a corner–had actually gone in, we wouldn’t be complaining right now. Oh, and can I just note how irritating Dwayne De Rosario is, what with the braids and that annoying funny-walk goal celebration of his?

  2. One concern that I think needs to be kept an eye on is Fred’s propensity for audacious flicks. He is very skilled, given, but when he begins with that silliness in his own defensive third, it looks really bad. Especially with a young pup like Torres following his every move I’d like to see him play a bit smarter. It’s a minor criticism but Torres clearly has the full bag of tricks and needs to be shown the right way to use them.

    Despite the failings in net and the stupid red, i though the UNION showed tremendous resolve and played with heart and commitment throughout. No need to panic, they have the look of a very good side in the making.

    Ditto on DeRosario, he’ll never play in any real tournaments for his country so he has to celebrate any garbage goal like he won the world cup. it’s the closest he’ll come

  3. Ed Farnsworth says:

    I’m with you on Seitz giving away the pk and at first thought the call was ridiculous. Could he have come out quicker? Maybe. But, like Jeremy said, he was very, very close to making what we would all have applauded as a big save. That said, the first goal was a head-shaking howler of a goal.

    Until Califf’s utterly boneheaded move, all the folks I was watching the game with were talking about how Toronto was playing like Philly against Seattle – lots of late tackles, no cohesion in the back (I can’t remember when it happened but who was the Toronto player who had a both feet off the ground, studs up potential crippler of a challenge that was worthy of a red card?), sloppy passing, easy turnovers. We were all thinking “first away win!”

    When Califf threw the elbow all I could say was “Unbelievable.” As Jeremy said, even though it was a weak back pass, Seitz appeared to have responded well to it and was swinging his leg to clear it when Califf leveled the guy. That Califf, captain of the team, would resort to such a cynically vicious stunt – during a nationally televised game – is incredible to me. I laughed when, asked on a recent Union Sound podcast what he was good at, Califf responded with, “I’m good at kicking people.” I understand how all of the talk about how tough the Union will play is as much an expression of a team ethos as it is good PR aimed at building fan support in Philadelphia. But as much as Philly sports fans love tough play, they also hate stupid play, and Califf’s foul was about as dumb (and dirty) as they come. In the end, it was more responsible for costing what should have been the team’s first road win than Seitz’s foul. With him out against the Red Bulls, who can tell how much more his elbow will cost the team?

    All of that said, I agree with Eli – the team showed great resolve (as they did in Seattle) when they were down a man. The Union have the tenacity and quality to be a good team if only they can put a stop to the utterly stupid fouls.

  4. Yep, what was so clear last night was how much better a team the Union were. In that first half, Toronto had nothing other than De Rosario. Toronto was throwing ugly tackles left and right. Then one bad decision and boom, the game changes. Life as an expansion team, I suppose.

  5. Mike Servedio says:

    Califf has been outspoken about the Union playing a physical style. And that’s fine. But that was needless last night and I hope he realizes that going forward. And for all the talk about playing a physical style, they seem to play best when they get a few passes going on the ground. The goal last night came from a terrific series of balls.

    Seitz has to be better. Plain and simple.

    That game should have been 10v10 as Hscanovics should have been sent off for that two footed tackle.

    De Rosario has not an ounce of class with the way he celebrated both those goals.

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