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Match Report: Philadelphia Union 0-1 Toronto FC

Usually, the third time is the charm.

For Toronto FC, it was the tenth, as they were the better side throughout in besting the Union 1-0  Saturday at BMO Field to earn their first points of 2012.

The battle of Eastern Conference’s worst two teams was decided by substitute Danny Koevermans, who pounced on a rebound to tap home in the 88th minute. Were it not for the poor finishing of Toronto’s Ryan Johnson and the heroics of Union third-string goalkeeper Chris Konopka, it could have been far worse for the visitors, who only registered one shot on goal over the full 90.

First Half

With Zac MacMath still suffering the effects of the concussion symptoms that have plagued him in recent weeks and Chase Harrison’s ankle failing to respond to treatment, Konopka stepped between the pipes for his second career MLS start. Gabe Farfan returned from injury to round out a Union back line that retained Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams and Raymon Gaddis.

In midfield, Gabriel Gomez’s injury kept him from making the trip, while Keon Daniel was also missing from the eighteen. Filling their places were Freddy Adu, back from his suspension, and Kai Herdling. Michael Farfan moved up to the midfield, replacing Michael Lahoud.

Up top, Danny Mwanga and Lionard Pajoy continued in a tandem that hoped to wreak havoc on a Toronto back line well known for conceding early and often.

But if the plan was to attack from the get-go, the Union did not show it. Toronto was the hungrier side from the opening whistle. With both sides trying to impose themselves on the match, it was the home team who nearly jumped out to an early advantage.

Taking a free kick quickly in the center circle, Torsten Frings pushed the ball forward to Reggie Lambe who raced in from the right wing to force a smart save by Konopka. The Union keeper was unable to push the ball behind, however, and Lambe got a second bite of the cherry, driving the rebound dangerously across the face of the goal.

All three strikers were finding space among the Union defenders, with Toronto’s midfielders failing to meet any resistance as they looked to pick out their teammates.

In the tenth minute, it was Johnson’s turn to get in on the act as the Union turned the ball over in the midfield through Herdling and Pajoy. Quick to counter, Johnson latched onto the pass as he streaked in from the left, but skewed his shot wide of the target.

The Union were under siege as Gaddis went in the book a minute later for scything down Plata near the endline.

On 14 minutes, Johnson again squandered a gilt-edged opportunity as a flicked on corner fell to the completely unmarked striker just outside the six. With the Union defense scrambling, Johnson rushed his volley, again powering it wide.

With Frings and de Guzman bossing the midfield, Toronto owned the center of the pitch, and the Union’s few attacking forays were well seen to.

Looking out of sorts and struggling to defend Plata while carrying a yellow card, Gaddis was removed in favor of Michael Lahoud in the 37th minute.

Three minutes later, the former Chivas USA man would be called upon to save the day when Michael Farfan misplayed the ball allowing Frings to slip in on goal. Working hard to recover, Lahoud nipped away Frings’ effort, and the Union were again handed a respite.

Adrian Cann nearly had Toronto on the board in the final minute of the first half, but his header off of Frings’ free kick delivery flew narrowly wide of Chris Konopka’s near post. The Union had to be happy to escape the first half without having conceded.

Second Half

Intent on making a better start in the second half, the Union were the brighter side out of the tunnel, with Herdling firing just wide following a smart build-up from Pajoy and Adu.

Next it was Michael Farfan getting into the offensive act as his 35 yard-blast rattled the crossbar.

Finally bringing the pressure expected in the first half, the Union pressed higher and higher, with Danny Mwanga charging down Milos Kocic’s clearing attempt. Doing the thankless work of occupying both center backs, Mwanga threw his body into his work and nearly earned a reward for his effort in the 56th minute when Herdling’s free kick delivery eluded his outstretched toe by the thinnest of margins.

Moments later, Mwanga almost found himself alone on goal after he won the race to a poor back pass, but Doneil Henry’s last ditch sliding tackle found just enough of the ball to keep referee Juan Guzman from pulling out his whistle.

Despite the growing pressure by the Union, they were nearly undone by a traditional weakness: Set piece defense. Having earned a corner from a counter attack, Konopka had to get down quickly to smother Henry’s powerful header after Henry shook free of Danny Mwanga in the 63rd minute.

As both teams sought out the eventual winner, it was end to end, with Toronto earning 4 consecutive corners before Michael Farfan fired the Union’s first shot on target in the 75th minute.

A mistake from Brian Carroll nearly gifted Toronto the opener. The midfielder failed to claim a simple cross, allowing Frings in alone on Konopka. Aggressive as ever, Konopka rushed off of his line, cut down the angle and denied the German international from close range.

But with only two minutes remaining, the hosts would have their reward. With both Union center backs failing to adequately clear their lines, the ball made its way to Michael Lahoud who swung and missed at his clearance gifting possession to Toronto’s Nick Soolsma. Racing towards the endline, Soolsma beat Lahoud with a pass in to Koevermans whose first flicked effort was denied by Konopka. But with the keeper prone, the Dutch international’s second effort found the back of the net, bringing 2012’s first points to Toronto.

Philadelphia Union

Chris Konopka; Raymon Gaddis (Michael Lahoud ’37), Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu, Kai Herdling (Antoine Hoppenot ’65); Lionard Pajoy, Danny Mwanga (Josue Martinez ’83)

Unused Substitutes: Amobi Okugo, Brian Rowe, Greg Jordan, Cristhian Hernandez

Toronto FC

Milos Kocic; Jeremy Hall, Doneil Henry, Adrian Cann, Ashtone Morgan; Torsten Frings, Julian de Guzman, Luis Silva (Nick Soolsma ’70); Joao Plata (Danny Koevermans ’63), Ryan Johnson, Reggie Lambe (Richard Eckersley ’54)

Unused Substitutes: Junior Burgos, Terry Dunfield, Ty Harden, Quillan Roberts


Juan Guzman

Scoring Summary

88 – TOR: Danny Koevermans (Nick Soolsma)

Disciplinary Summary

11 – PHI: Raymon Gaddis (Caution)

29 – PHI: Lionard Pajoy (Caution)

30 – TOR: Ashtone Morgan (Caution)

43 – TOR: Julian de Guzman (Caution)


  1. the kid union says:

    WELL time to cry :’-(

  2. the kid union says:

    at least the U.S. won a friendly

  3. James 4-3-3 says:

    I guess the “Nowak is getting fired” talk can start for real now.

  4. Philly Cheese says:

    Why isn’t Okugo first on to replace a sick Gaddis? Lahoud looked very weak and sloppy. Long past time to realize that Mwanga and Pajoy tandem is not going to finish scoring opportunities with any consistency. Often looked like 10 year olds playing soccer with four players bunched within 10 yards of ball. Awful is word that comes to mind. Nowak’s contract must be guaranteed and buyout must be beyond financial abilities of owners.

    • Better question: why isn’t Okugo starting? He’s one of the most expensive players on this team. Meanwhile, we’re trotting Brian “King of Mediocrity” Carroll out there every match.

      If we can accomplish only one thing this season (and that’s probably about right) it should be finding out if there’s anything there with Okugo.

  5. We cannot laugh. We cannot cry. We are frozen in the sports space continuum. Prisoners of the Nowak.

  6. We haven’t hit super rock bottom yet, the Rhinos are a good team and the embarrassment could possibly continue.

  7. T of the U says:

    I’m done…losing to a horrendous team in the 88th minute…I can’t watch this crap anymore. The only reason I will is because all the European leagues are done. I sure as hell am not buying any tickets to go watch them get smacked around at home, that’s for sure.

    Merry-go-round midfield, lazy strikers, and make-shift backline…I seriously have to think that Nowak is trying to lose his job.

  8. This organization is a joke. I suggest we all stop wasting our time getting angry about it and just move on.

  9. Pahotspur says:

    ONE shot on goal,really? Awful. Lahouds attempt at a clearance for their goal was laughable for a professional. This team has been ruined and there is only one person to blame. We seriously think we can shift Le Toux and Califf and not miss them? If we had just paid Le Toux what we pay Pajoy there would not have been a problem and at least you knew Le Toux worked his socks off during the game. The Ruiz saga was painful, Adu earns over have a mill a year…….Slopez earns how much to be a flop……After last year with Marfan playing LB you would think we would know to have cover in the back four, not us though we sell one of the few we have in exchange for…..a guy who plays emergency FB against what was the worst team in the league and gives away the goal….Time for a new manager I think.

  10. After the game, Nowak blamed the team. He blamed the players. Last season I began to call for Nowak’s removal, and was at times jeared. Well here we are a year later, and nothing has changed. He continues to blame the players without taking any responsibility for the teams failures. None. Well, he is very much responsible. He is resposible not only for their poor play but also for demoralizing the players. Next he will ones again be blaiming the fans. I don’t think he will be fired (at least not until after the All Star Game, if at all). But he needs to be.

  11. MikeRSoccer says:

    This was the concern with Gaddis. His strong play of late has been grounded on him being faster then the opponent he is covering. Saturday Plata was faster then him and TFC exposed it. Gaddis was not helped by the fact that for the first 20 minutes Nowak appeared to be trying to play with three backs, Williams-Carrol-Valdes, and Garfan/Gaddis on their respective sides pushed very high up the field. This meant that Gaddis not only had to deal with Plata being faster then him, but also struggle with getting back into a normal RB position to cover Plata when Nowak clearly wanted him pushing further up. I have never seen a more tactically unsound line up then the one Nowak put out on Saturday. The Union played with three up top, Marfan was supposed to be in the LM position, but seemed more inclined to drift into the middle behind the three strikers. All together we were exposed on the flanks because of how high up the backs were pushed up and at the same time the midfield was non existent.

    • Gaddis definitely has the skill-set to excel in MLS, but regardless of how well he has played at times, I don’t buy into the Califf-trade/Williams-CB/Gaddis-starting-RB justification.

  12. This match left me nearly speechless. Facing the worst team in the league, the U were outplayed for nearly every minute of the match.

    It’s easy to call for Nowak’s firing and maybe it’s the right thing to do. The question that I’d like to ask is how this guy’s performance has dropped so far, so fast. He came in with much fanfare, and through two seasons seemed to have a clue. This season he’s presiding over a very slow train wreck. People want Nowak’s sacking, but I’d like to see the results of a drug screen and a complete psychiatric evaluation, to be honest. There must be a reason for this free fall.

  13. Wow. That was bad. Let’s all be realistic. Nowak will not be sacked during the season. The FO will (and perhaps should) wait until the conclusion of the entire campaign to asses his performance. That said:

    1) Did Danny Mwanga even play?
    2) Sign a legit CB and move Williams back outside. Anything else is crap.
    3) Lahoud playing Defense now…Terrific!
    4) What did Okugo do to piss off Piotr?
    5) Pajoy needs to watch some game film of himself. Totally PASSIVE.

  14. Game, Set and match.The Union are done, no players ,no money and no hope.

  15. Obviously, I agree with everything that’s been said above, so no need to repeat any of it.

    I wanted to throw my chair through the TV at Bob Rigby’s condescending excuse-making. It was worse than Chris Wheeler from when the Phillies were bad. Frankly, I found it to be insulting to my intelligence and the intelligence of this fan base.

    When Rigby said something along the lines of “you have to understand with the amount of turnover it is going to be difficult.” THEY CHOSE TO F***KING HAVE THIS MUCH TURNOVER.

    Also can’t stand the constant mispronouncing of names and referring to the Union as “we”.

    I miss Taylor Twellman big time.

    Nowak needs to go first, then Rigby.

    • I totally get that Rigby is in the very tough position of putting a happy face on an embarrassing game (epic loss) but I agree he’s just TERRIBLE, as a true fan, to listen to. Rigby is smart enough to know that he is BS-ing the tv audience. Shameful!

  16. DarthLos117 says:

    Cy’all next season.

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