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Match report: Philadelphia Union 3-0 Toronto FC

Photo: Earl Gardner

In a battle of the bottom two teams on the Eastern Conference table, Philadelphia Union pounded a listless Toronto FC side 3-0 before 18,393 jubilant fans at PPL Park on Sunday.

Coming into the match on a five-game undefeated run under new manager Paul Mariner, the Canadian team looked a much improved outfit, capable of earning a second victory over the Union in 2012.

That was not how the match would play out, however, with the Union dominating the first half and taking a two-goal advantage into halftime on goals from Gabriel Gomez and Freddy Adu. Though Toronto improved marginally after the break, they never had the creativity to break down a well organized Union defense. Substitute Antoine Hoppenot settled the match with a goal ten minutes from time to send the Union into Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal against Kansas City on a two-match winning streak.

First Half

Coming off of Wednesday’s triumph over Los Angeles Galaxy, manager John Hackworth made only two changes. Gabriel Gomez returned for Michael Lahoud, and up front, Lionard Pajoy took Keon Daniel’s place as the Union looked to produce a more offensive performance at home against the newly resurgent Toronto FC.

Having taken over as leader of the Union’s attacking line, Jack McInerney continued his excellent play, stretching the Toronto defense immediately to announce his intentions against a visiting side that would struggle to cope with McInerney’s razor sharp lines of running all day.

In the 4th minute, McInerney got behind Logan Emory for a second time and squared for Michael Farfan, who had his shot blocked as the Union threw numbers into the box looking for a quick opener.

With Toronto sitting deep in their own half, the Union easily climbed into ascendancy. They knocked the ball comfortably through the midfield with Gabriel Gomez looking fully fit and confident, a promising sign for the Union.

Tucking in from the left wing, Freddy Adu was in scintillating form running at defenders. He tried to take on one too many in the 13th minute though, with McInerney and Pajoy poised for a tap-in after Adu tore through the heart of the Toronto defense, but Toronto snuffed Adu’s shot out.

With the Union relentless in attack, Michael Farfan locked in on McInerney again in the 15th minute, playing the striker in on the Toronto net. A clever first touch allowed McInerney to slide past Emory, but Kocic was brave to come and claim the ball, knowing a heavy collision was imminent. Both players stayed down following the contact but were able to continue.

Pajoy was the next to try his luck on Kocic’s goal as he got behind the Toronto defense to latch onto Gomez’s delivery. Unfortunately for the Colombian, his touch was heavy, allowing Toronto to put the ball out of play for a corner.

The chances were flowing fast and furious when Gomez picked out Sheanon Williams steaming up the right flank. Unfortunately for the Union, McInerney’s feet got tangled with his mark in the box, and he could not steer a Williams pass toward the net. Intent to keep the play alive, Michael Farfan reacted fastest when the ball slid through the box. Juking to the endline, Farfan squared himself before finding Brian Carroll near the penalty spot. Before Carroll could slot home though, the Toronto defense was able to scramble across to block the shot.

With the Union at full flight, the goal finally arrived in the 34th minute when Michael Farfan again found a streaking run from McInerney. Racing in behind the Toronto defense, the Union center forward cut the ball back for Gomez. Trailing the play, Gomez held his run and swung his shot back across the face of goal, and it took a slight deflection before nestling just inside of the far post to put the Union up 1-0.

Before Toronto could catch their breath, Adu handed the Union a two-goal advantage. McInerney again featured prominently as he dropped into midfield to show for the ball. Spying an overload on the left flank, he switched fields for Gabriel Farfan, whose soft through ball sat perfectly for Adu. The diminutive midfielder then struck his effort under the sprawling Kocic and into the side netting.

The Union reestablished a comfortable passing rhythm before seeking a third goal in the first 45 minutes, and on the stroke of half, they nearly had it. Adu again tore the Toronto defense apart before lofting a cross for Pajoy at the far post who, at full stretch, could not keep his header on target, blasting it over the bar.

Two goals to the good, with 70% of the possession and a firm grasp on the match, the Union left the pitch at the halftime interval to raucous applause from the pleased PPL Park crowd.

Second Half

Picking up where they left off, the Union nearly killed off the game in the first minute of the second half. It was the Michael Farfan-to-McInerney connection that again began the play before the striker played a quick one-two with Pajoy. Racing towards the endline, McInerney’s cross was barely deflected by the outstretched fingertips of a frantic Kocic. Unable to get much on his clearance, Kocic left the ball for Adu, who snatched at his shot and pulled it wide of the far post.

Buoyed by the break, Toronto nearly made the Union pay on the other end. Ryan Johnson bumped off Carlos Valdes and hooked in a cross for Danny Koevermans. Rising highest, Koevermans got power behind his header, but not direction as it flew straight to Zac MacMath, who claimed it comfortably.

Frustrated by the Union’s dominance, Toronto began to get chippy as the Union passed the ball around them with ease. In the 55th minute, Johnson was the first player in referee Paul Ward’s notebook as he crashed through Carroll before remonstrating vociferously with the referee.

Toronto was growing into the game, but lacking the creativity to play through the midfield, they were forced to hook in crosses from the wings. The Union remained organized in the middle and held their ground when Reggie Lambe’s 58th minute cross found Danny Koevermans in the box, only to see Carlos Valdes escort him away from goal without a shot on target.

On the other end, McInerney nearly grabbed an insurance goal, but with Antoine Hoppenot waiting on the sidelines to replace him, could not keep his header on target, drilling his chance inches wide of the near post.

As the Union sat back to protect their lead, Toronto began to carve inroads from the wings. But when Lambe earned a dangerously located free kick, MacMath was strong in the air to beat away the service.

The Union nearly grabbed their third goal minutes later when Emory hacked down Michael Farfan in the area. It looked a clear penalty, but despite tackling through the Union player to play the ball, referee Ward waved play on.

Undeterred, Michael Farfan needed to wait only minutes for his next chance. When Emory’s headed clearance fell at the feet of the Union playmaker, he wasted no time in sliding the ball through to Hoppenot. Easily beating Emory, Hoppenot surprised Kocic with a first time blast that beat the Toronto keeper to his far post, igniting the PPL Park crowd as the Union surged ahead 3-0.

But there was still work to do in order to maintain a clean sheet. In the 82nd minute, Johnson got behind Valdes and held off Gabriel Farfan to go in alone on the Union goal. When MacMath stopped the first shot with his legs, the ball fell to Danny Koevermans whose leaping volley had MacMath beat, but not Sheanon Williams, who recovered in time to head the ball off the line, preserving the shutout.

The Union then welcomed back Roger Torres in the 83rd minute, as he took the field for the first time since suffering a knee injury in March. He nearly had an assist with one of his first touches when he put Hoppenot into space with a well-struck through ball, only to see the defense cover the play and allow Kocic to pounce on the ball.

For the Union, there will be little time to celebrate the victory before Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal showdown with Sporting Kansas City, but they will take with them the confidence of having dominated Toronto FC wire to wire.

Philadelphia Union

Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Farfan (Chris Albright ’89); Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan (Roger Torres ’83); Freddy Adu, Jack McInerney (Antoine Hoppenot ’65), Lionard Pajoy

Unused substitutes: Chris Konopka, Raymon Gaddis, Michael Lahoud, Keon Daniel

Toronto FC

Milos Kocic; Ashtone Morgan, Richard Eckersley, Logan Emory (Doneil Henry ’86), Jeremy Hall; Reggie Lambe, Torsten Frings, Terry Dunfield (Luis Silva ’65), Eric Avila (Julian De Guzman ’46); Danny Koevermans, Ryan Johnson

Unused substitutes: Quillan Roberts, Nick Soolsma, Matt Stinson, Aaron Maund

Scoring Summary

34 – PHI: Gomez (McInerney)

36 – PHI: Adu (G. Farfan)

78 – PHI: Hoppenot (M. Farfan)

Discipline Summary

56 – TOR: Johnson (caution)

77 – TOR: Frings (caution)


Paul Ward


  1. McMohansky says:

    I go away for three weeks on honeymoon and come back to a completely different, better, exciting team. Fully converted to a Jack Mac fan, and how can anyone not? His runs are so aggressive and well timed, it’s a thing of beauty. Awesome game and great atmosphere again at PPL.

    • Jeremy L. says:

      Jack Mac is not fast. In fact, I might even call him slow. And yet, he gets behind defenses time and time again. Great player, and so happy he’s finally being given his shot to prove himself.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I wouldn’t call him slow. He definitely doesn’t have the blazing speed of Hopponot, but he is quick and can really pick the right spots to make runs.

    • Hennie Youngman says:

      It’s called karma. A little good to balance off your awful mistake.

  2. the kid union says:

    Lets get the cup!

  3. The team looked really good. I hope they continue to get better and heal from Nowaks nonsense. Go Union!

  4. James Korman says:

    DOOP! That was a dominating effort. A sober view is that the Harrisburg City Islanders probably could have handled Toronto though. They are not at all good. That said, our boys played fantastic. A far cry from those early season games where our offensive output consisted of 1 shot (not on goal.) For whatever reason we look absolutely LOADED on offense right now. Jack Mac, Marfan, Gomez, Pajoy, Adu…We can hurt you in so many ways. I loved Coach Hackworth’s starting XI and subs. In Hack We Trust!!!

  5. Philly Cheese says:

    Great game to watch. One big advantage to Union youth is ability to bounce back with Wed and Sat games next. Rotating veterans with tired legs may keep streak going. Not many teams with last two games as a “W”.

  6. Fun to watch, again, which couldn’t have been said earlier on the season two games in a row. The scorebook shows MacInereny, Hoppenot, Adu(!), Gomez(!) and Williams in the past couple of games, with Pajoy looking like he actually is coming around. Still too many defensive acrobatic goalline saves, but the other end of the field is looking great. Who would have expected, earlier this season when there were more substitutions per game for the Union than shots toward the goal if not on goal, that there would have been five goals in two games? 4-3-3 is working well, and those diagonal runs are just so much fun to watch and anticipate. I agree that it is only TFC, but the Union looked much different the last time around. I am happy to see the progress.

  7. Mario in QT says:

    I hear ‘its only TFC’ from a number of fans but keep in mind this team has a new coach (like Philly) who was undefeated in their last 5 games. Since Hack took over its the Union that make the other teams look bad. DC United stole their win. PU outplayed them in long stretches. Kansas City was not a “bad team” (top of division?). LA lost at home, can’t say they are currently a bad team, they have been winning games lately. I would give credit to the Union for making the other teams look bad by putting them on their heels defensively. Of course scoring goals from the numerous chances created by our lively attacking minded team does help.

  8. This is the same TFC that bossed us less than a month ago, to keep it in perspective.

    Things are getting better, and that’s what’s most important.

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    It’s amazing what happens when you stop bringing in old, lazy veterans and play the young talent you have. LOVE the way this team is playing right now. They have a solid D, and plenty of guys to get forward. Brian Carroll has been fantastic and doesn’t get enough credit.

    • +1.

      I’d rather go down firing and playing like this than Pajoy as the lone striker, Adu/Marfan running around aimlessly, and having one of the leagues best RBs playing as an undersized CB all the while your young talent is wasting away on the bench.

      In conclusion, Nowak sucks. He was, beyond all doubt, the problem both on and off the pitch.

      • PhillyHotSpur says:

        Looking back on Nowak’s time here and the recent results w/ his departure……….

        You begin to understand how truly wrong he got things with this club. Its to the point where you would be shocked to see him get another job anywhere at the professional level. The interesting thing –> It was so obvious to everyone either involved with the club or simply a fan of the club and you have to wonder why ownership took so damn long to pull the trigger on letting go a man that could belongs no where near a head coaching position in a professional soccer league..

        Happy Trails Nowak………Your not a bad guy, but fooocked up our club good. PEACE

  10. I have criticized JMac in the past for uninspired play, but I have been incredibly impressed with what I’ve seen. He looks like a different player, but perhaps that’s because he’s actually getting service and space to do things.

    That team was dominant. It’s hard to find a player who had a below average showing. TFC conceded the entire Union half during the first 45.

    I hope the Union can jettison some Lopez, Perlaza-esque salary eaters for another dynamic striker to complement JMac.

  11. PhillyHotSpur says:

    A few observations………
    A) Like many of the Union fans predicted, its painfully obvious that Nowak was doing much more harm then good over the last year and half w/ this club…
    B) JackMac is the real deal , who’s runs are timed perfectly and can poach with the best of them
    C) This 4-3-3 is perfect for Adu and let him focus on attacking while Gomez/Carroll provide the coverage to the BL
    D) Williams should not be starting at CB ever again and fits in like a glove at RWB
    E) Okugo transition from CDM to CB has been very impressive so far and his skill back there next to Valdes has clearly exceeded my expectations
    F) Hops off the bench is the perfect lightening rod needed to the attack and has shown a keen ability to break down a tired Backline
    G) Valdes is clearly our best player and the leader of the squad……A defensive beast w/ a very under-rated skill and calmness in possession..Throw in that his positioning is terrific, I’m getting to the point of nervousness that a bigger club will swoop in for the Rock of our club.

    The playoffs are more then doable if we can continue the momentum and hold this form.

  12. Awesome match for the boys in blue & gold! Adu getting a lot of praise for the match in the media, yes a good game from him. Thought Marfan was the best attacking player on the field Sunday. Set up 2 goals and created many more opportunities. JacMac has improved his runs so much, not 1 offside call on him yesterday. Amobi at CB is distributing so well out of the back. Huge improvement over Califf in this regard. He created a goal yesterday and on Wednesday in LA by playing 2 great balls out of the back. Great to see! COYBIB!!

    • PhillyHotSpur says:

      BTW….i know we call it a 4-3-3……But w/ Marfan’s positioning………its almost like a 4-2-1-3…..

      With Marfan operating as the “1” and sitting right behind that Front 3 pulling the strings…..He leans toward’s Adu side , but plays no where close to Gomez or Carroll……..

      Its an interesting formation…….it basically equates to an all out attack of 4 players and 6 players to clean up……Those 6 have stood tall and have allowed this to formation to thrive…..Giddy up.

  13. I am glad to see we essentially played the same lineup we did against SKC. These players have a feel for each other and work well together. Hoppenot is the perfect guy off the bench and I am not sure I would press to start if I were him at least not yet.
    Macmath has played well considering his age and experience. Most importantly I LOVE how well amobi has been playing. He has been so confident in a position that is not suited as well to his strengths. How many teams can say that their most consistent balls over the top are played by a 20 year old CB.
    lets beat SKC wednesday and root hard for the goats.

  14. I think the key to all of this is the word “freedom” which I believe Sheanon or Jack used in a quote recently. These guys were so concerned with taking chances and if they didnt work out ultimately getting put in Nowak’s doghouse that we stopped taking chances, taking risks thats sometimes result in goals, etc.

    When you have a young team they have to feel free to take those chances, to make the mistake and learn from it on the pitch. What was happening is they would make a mistake and get benched, so the best way to play was to be a non-factor, just enough to start.

    I think Hackworth is a breath of fresh air for the players because he wants them to take risks, take chances, be creative and know they will not be punished for a simple mistake, thats how we learn and grown.

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