Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Toronto FC

Photo: Earl Gardner

In the first game of a home and home series against Toronto FC, Conor Casey’s 56th minute tally was all the Philadelphia Union needed to claim three points at PPL Park. The better side for the majority of the match, the Union struggled to create clear cut chances, but against a club in midst of the turmoil that follows the late season firing of coach Ryan Nelsen, it was enough.

This result, and the manner in which they achieved it, will carry the Union into the weekend’s return fixture with plenty of confidence that they can claim all six points from the series.

Jim Curtin reiterated a stance he has taken after most matches at PPL Park. “I like 1-0 games. It means your team is organized, you took a chance and you scored a goal and then you were able to hold on.”

While Toronto had a few late opportunities, Zac MacMath rose to the occasion when called upon, before any hope of a fightback from Toronto fell by the wayside in the 77th minute when Ashtone Morgan was sent off for a last defender foul when he hauled down Sebastien Le Toux from behind.

First Half

With Rais Mbolhi and Carlos Valdes away on international duty, Zac MacMath returned to the starting XI, with Maurice Edu dropping back to center back. Jim Curtin was handed a boost with Cristian Maidana being declared fully fit after being limited for over a month with a hamstring injury. But with Maidana’s return came the news that Vincent Nogueira would miss the match after sustaining a midweek knock in practice.

Not that visiting Toronto FC would sympathize. Having fired most of their coaching staff this week, beginning with head coach Ryan Nelsen, interim manager Greg Vanney stepped into the spotlight. Resting Gilberto, Vanney started Daniel Lovitz on the right side of midfield, promoting Dominic Oduro to forward.

The Union looked to attack Lovitz and fullback Mark Bloom immediately on the left flank, with Andrew Wenger racing in behind in the first minute, though goalkeeper Joe Bednik was quick to race off his line and shut down the early opportunity.

In the 4th minute, the Union again went after Bloom and Lovitz, with Wenger and Casey exchanging passes before the red-hot winger raced to the endline. Unfortunately for the hosts, his cut back cross flew well behind his onrushing teammates.

Toronto had few answers for the Union’s pace and ball movement in the early going, but the Union struggled to turn their ascendancy into scoring chances.

In the 15th minute, it was a bit of scrounging that nearly saw Conor Casey open the Union’s account. When Toronto couldn’t clear Maidana’s free kick delivery, Casey pounced first, lashing a shot that Bendik did very well to push behind at the near post.

After surviving the Union’s early period of dominance, Toronto nearly got in behind on 25 minutes when Lovitz skipped past Carroll and played in Luke Moore. The chance was there, but when Moore took a touch, Edu and Amobi Okugo swarmed, eliminating the threat.

Zac MacMath was called on to be sharp minutes later, racing out of his box to slide clear the through ball with Oduro running on.

Following the brief scare, the Union made a strong push as the half wore down, though twice Wenger was unable to convert when set up by first Maidana and next Le Toux.

Edu nearly gifted Toronto an opener just before the half, when his soft back pass was picked off by Oduro, who flew past Carroll. But again, MacMath reacted faster than the Ghanaian speedster, sliding the ball clear.

Second Half

Eager to gain a foothold in the match, Vanney brought on Gilberto for Jonathan Osorio, giving Toronto more power up front and moving the speedy Oduro to the wing.

It was the Union who nearly opened the scoring in the 48th minute when Okugo unlocked the Toronto defense. But when he slid the ball into Wenger’s stride, the wide man failed to make good contact, sending the ball fizzing well wide of the far post.

The Union did well to replicate their pressure from the beginning of the first half, and Okugo nearly found the opener off of a corner minutes later. Rising high at the far post, Okugo’s header looked destined to slip inside the woodwork, but Bendik moved well to his right, doing just enough to claw the ball away.

In the 56th minute, the pressure finally yielded results, with Le Toux winning a header in his own half to start the counter attack. When the ball fell to Maidana, the Argentine drew Doneil Henry to him before laying the ball up the line for Le Toux, who had continued his run. With both Wenger and Casey racing into the box, Le Toux chose the latter, powering a low cross that made simple work for the big striker to finish at the near post.

Toronto nearly struck back immediately though, when Ray Gaddis allowed a long ball from Michael Bradley to fly over his head. Racing in from the wing to capitalize on the mistake, Oduro found Gilberto’s run, but just when it looked like an equalizer was imminent, MacMath came up with the critical save to keep the score and the momentum in the Union’s favor.

And with Toronto pressing forward looking for another chance to level the scores, Le Toux stepped into the passing lane, picking off Nick Hagglund’s pass and racing away alone. Morgan was quick to track back, but rather than make a play on the ball, he wrapped up Le Toux, dragging him down and earning himself a red card for his troubles.

On the ensuing free kick, Le Toux nearly doubled the advantage with a rasping drive, but Bendik continued to add to his highlight reel of saves to keep the shot out of the top corner.

Out of gas and down a man, Toronto continued to try their luck, with Bradley nearly breaking free on goal after dribbling past Carroll, but Gaddis arrived in time to make the saving tackle, preserving the 1-0 scoreline and the valuable three points to go with it.

The Union will face Toronto again, this time on the road, on Saturday (2 pm, CSN).

“We talked all week internally about getting four more points from Toronto,” Curtin said after the game. “We’re on a good pace for that. We can’t just split with them because that gets us nowhere. We can’t just split 3-3. We need to go to Toronto now and take points there. That becomes the focus.”

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath, Ray Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Ethan White, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Brian Carroll, Andre Wenger, Cristian Maidana (Fred, 71), Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey (Brian Brown, 61)

Toronto FC
Joe Bendik, Mark Bloom, Nick Hagglund, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Daniel Lovitz (Bright Dike, 83), Collen Warner, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio (Gilberto, 45), Dominic Oduro (Ryan Richter, 84), Luke Moore

Scoring Summary
PHI: Conaor Casey (Sebatien Letoux, Cristian Maidana) — 55

Disciplinary Summary
PHI: Yellow — Maurice Edu — 33 (Hand)
TOR: Red — Ashtone Morgan — 77 (Professional Foul)
TOR: Yellow — Michael Bradley — 84 (Foul)
TOR: Yellow — Doniel Henry– 90 +3 (Foul)

Philadelphia Union Toronto FC
11 Attempts on Goal 13
7 Shots on Target 3
3 Shots off Target 5
1 Blocked Shots 5
10 Corner Kicks 4
24 Crosses 15
1 Offsides 0
14 Fouls 14
1 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 1
343 Total Passes 473
71% Passing Accuracy 81%
42.7% Possession 57.3%
57 Duels Won 54
51.4% Duels Won % 48.6%
17 Tackles Won 16
3 Saves 6
21 Clearances 27


  1. Wenger missed some good opportunities but he has been playing really well recently. He is just chewing through fullbacks

    • Wenger scares no one. He should get a haircut like Oduro’s then at least he’d look like a frighteningly good goalscorer.

      • i don’t know what game you’re watching because wenger has had both san jose and Toronto’s right backs in his pocket. it’s the best 180 minutes of soccer in his professional career, i would guess.

      • Agree with Chris. You can see the fear in the defender’s eyes as they try to keep Wenger in front of them. He’s been gliding by them and when they body up to him, he’s got the strength to fight through it. He’s been beastly.

      • Not only is he taking people on the dribble with abandon, he’s also playing strong defense. He ably headed out at least 2 of Toronto’s corner kicks. I was kinda thinking that he should’ve been subbed to give him some rest for Saturday, but the dude was playing so strongly that in the end it couldn’t be justified.

      • I didn’t say he wasn’t taking people on. And I didn’t say he didn’t have a nice game defensively. I only wrote that he scares no one as a goalscorer. He flubs 3/4 of the chances he has for crosses and shots on goal. There are no good alternatives right now, but if I were Curtain or Albright or whoever, I would find a more dangerous left winger in the offseason.

      • The quick through pass Okugo gave him last night was magic (and for the one time he rockets one in to the upper 90) most the others come off the way that one did. A dead snap hook flub like the 18th at Pebble was looming.

  2. For the love of God – please – PLEASE – never allow Brian Carroll to wear our colors again. I will say this until he is gone – every game he’s allowed to put on the captain’s armband is a joke and insult to the other players on the team.

    All night long he sucked the energy out of anything the U had. I know it’s because of our call-ups – but eff, play a rookie before him. I can’t handle another game of watching him flail his legs at passes and have less effect on a tackle than my dog does.

    #2 – Bradley is a dirty ass punk. Good to see he’s maintained his form of crap from the World Cup. Unfortunately he got away with everything last night.

    #3 – Decided Zac will never learn on coming out of his box. Glad another team’s fans will have to worry about that next season.

    #4 – Seba. Don’t have to say anything else.

    • zac came out several times but he got the ball every time, whats the problem?

    • Funny I thought Zac played stellar last night in all aspects.

    • LOL @ #3. Look at Neuer. Nothing wrong with coming out of your box like that, you just need to be 110% sure you will be right many, many more times than you are wrong.

      And Zac was right every time last night.

    • Zac played great last night!! Came out when he had to and earned another great shutout!

    • I actually thought Carroll was ok last night. Not what he used to be, and certainly not the level of other dmids on the roster, but he was serviceable. I even saw him slow down and control the $6M man a few times. As for being named captain and insulting the other players: I am 100% certain his teammates are happy with BC as captain, in fact many of them have said as much. He’s not my first pick, but they walked away with a shutout and 3 points from a desperate team, so I have no complaints.

      • yea I would have to agree JJ. He played very well last night and I’m one of many who want him off the team. The problem with Carroll this season is that he has been inconsistent more often then playing well. I still think he should not be captain and or on this team but I will give credit where it is do. So, congrats to Carroll on a damn good performance. He did the simple things well, which goes along way with keeping possession and having success on the field.

      • Carroll made a few horrible giveaway passes in the midfield that could’ve been quite dangerous (and at least one of them was). However, in between those, he was all over Michael Bradley and helped contain him, and Collen Warner, pretty effectively. Add up the good and the bad and I’d give him a 5/10 for the performance — which is pretty good for your 4th string D-mid.

      • Atomic spartan says:

        Horrible giveaways indeed. More so than anyone else on the team. That’s the problem and one of these matches it will hurt us if he is allowed to continue. I know we don’t have much in the way of options when CV and Nog are unavailable, but there are too many times when Carrol’s giveaways snuff out our advantages and change momentum, or worse. Oh well, at least when he gets the ball, it gives our defense something to do.

      • He was a statue several times as well. Problem was he was probly the only option last night in curtains eyes since Ribeiro doesn’t play.

  3. Boy this team can be tough to watch sometimes. That game was like an old gear box without grease. 3 points is good though.
    Some observations.
    Can somebody explain to me why it is we hoof every goal kick up the field. Is the MLS and our version of the game here stateside still sooooo far behind europe and South America and Mexico. Every goal kick is a 50/50 turn over. The other team has yielded possession and our willingness here to yield it right back is astonishing to me. Not one time is play built from the back. Spread the defenders to either side of the box pull in one of the DM as an outlet and show me a emerging game intelligence. JeezeLouise.
    Andrew Wenger back to earth. Yes he chews up fullbacks right now but its all grit and determination and athleticism. When offered the chance twice last night to thread a one touch pass in to space from the left side to Casey both times it was a bad touch away from goal instead. JeezeLouise.
    And lastly from my weekly column of helping bring those members of our fan base who do not recognize Okugo as the best player on this team and best DM in the MLS. Did anybody see the pass he threaded to Wenger on the touchline in the 9th minute that not only broke pressure in the defensive end but then lead directly to a Casey attempt on goal in two touches? The pass was majestic, so fast as to not be recognized as majestic, incisive, through 4 red players on a dead line perfectly placed at Wenger’s strong foot. Flat awesome. The man does in 1 touch what the rest of the league needs to do in 2 or 3. That cannot be understated.
    3 points. 3 more points on Sunday and we are on our way. Go U.

    • I agree completely in re: long goal kicks. Makes no sense, when you have possession, to give it back in a toss-up half the time.

      I disagree completely in re: Wenger. He was really strong last night, taking defenders on the dribble aggressively, and playing strong defense too.

      • I like Wenger’s game, mostly. He has been good particularly as Curtain is deploying him. I need to qualify my comments. One of the objects of the outside mid/outside forward is to receive and feed and Andrew had some clear dead through balls that would have sprung Casey -because Casey did the work to put himself in the correct position and then the pass never comes on one or two touches. Too often Andrew decides to pass the ball but is 2 or 3 seconds too slow and the space/run is gone. My gripe is one of nuance and playing in the future a bit more. Again- Wenger is playing well- just trying to highlight areas of improvement.

      • I agree and see the same thing. I think this ability to see these plays comes with minutes and experience. He needs to keep starting in that position. He’s certainly the best we have there so keep running him out there.

    • Atomic spartan says:

      Seriously, you prefer Cruz to AW? DC has his place, but not as starting LW. JeezeLouise!

    • Totally agree on the kicks, to me that’s macmaths real only weakness still this year. It’s always a punt or long kick. Easy to correct I don’t get it.

    • Joel– we recognize Okugo as the best player on the team. He was voted the team MVP by far margin last season and that was when playing in his secondary CB position. Read PSP Player Rating and Analysis of the this Toronto game and you will see the Okugo praise. Only good/great soccer minds can see what you see in Okugo and wants others to see.

  4. I’m glad the Union were playing a team in a death spiral; I don’t think 71% passing accuracy gets it done against a team that cares.

  5. Thought there were plenty of clear cut chances to score. Wenger had 2 he should have finished. Then there was one header and one shot that Bendik miraculously kept out. Then Letoux almost scored on his 2 freekicks. Great stuff!
    Wish Ribiero had come in instead of Brown. Brown is just not good enough; he does not create anything and is no offensive threat.

    • I completely agree. Brown did nothing but look to run behind and he walked everywhere. He showed no hustle or any willingness to pressure/defend. I think Ribeiro deserves some minutes replacing Casey. He certainly can add more to the team than Brown has been giving us.

      • Agreed, Brown is very slow to recognize situations and read the run of play. Would much rather see Ribeiro getting those minutes.

      • I hope training for Brown focuses on checking back to receive the ball and a little more hustle. Hopefully it was nerves, but he obviously has touch with his couple of juggling sequences.

      • I agree he almost looked nervous about getting in any 50/50 challenges

  6. Unfortunately, I only got to watch the first half But the Union looked great. Passing was good but risky’ accounting, I suppose, for the 71 percent accuracy.

    Chaco and Seba are awesome. Offense looks so much better with Maidana, too. Was bummed Nog’s was hurt.

    The stretch run for a playoff shot is going to be really tough. New England suddenly looks amazing. Union’s ceiling seems to be fourth place, a spit for which we’ll need to shake off Columbus and New York, Toronto and even Chicago. I hope Nogs is back Sat.

    • New England is a really talented team who are finally playing up to the level where the should be. And actually, so are the Union.

      Regarding Eastern Conference prognostication, I don’t think Chicago has the talent to make it above the rest of the teams, and New York has a horrendous schedule in September, with 6 games, 4 of which are against the league’s top teams (DC, KC, LA, Seattle) and an old squad that will not be able to handle that. They will fade. Houston has been playing much better lately, but Tally Hall just went out for the season. Toronto is deflating (though they have enough talent to hold on if somebody can turn things around). Columbus has been more than the sum of its parts all year. I am guardedly optimistic about our chances, and with MBolhi and Valdes back in the XI, I think we could even challenge for 3rd.

      • I tend to agree. At this point my expectations are that the Union should make the playoffs. I think they are certainly quality enough to do so- otherwise why have you brought in the upper end goalie and the rock at CB. The Union are scoring and generally not conceding. A good metric for the future.

    • I have to disagree about final standings. I think the ceiling is 3rd place. It will be difficult to get there, but it’s a definite possibility. It boils down to only a few teams with a solid shot at 3rd. Each has hurdles to overcome including the Union. Chicago has been inconsistent and has an anemic offense. Toronto is Toronto and they will find a way to blow it. New York’s schedule and old legs will be a big hurdle for them to overcome. New England and Columbus will be problematic for the Union. Bottom line is we control our destiny and our ceiling. There is nothing saying SKC doesn’t shit the bed either. They will have CCL games to contend with too. They haven’t looked good recently. DC looks to be best in the East by a lot.

      • New England has a pretty easy schedule ahead of it, with the toughest opponent being KC, which they handled pretty easily last night. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them swipe 2nd place with a finish that looks like this:

        1. DC
        2. NE
        3. KC

        KC has 9 points over the Union, 6 over NE. In some ways, I’m going to be rooting for both KC and NE to keep beating our opponents and keeping points out of the hands of NY and Columbus.

        This weekend, Columbus plays Chivas…. Hard to bet against the Crew here, and NE plays Chicago. I like NE given current form. And KC plays NY — here I’m rooting for KC to bounce back and keep those points away from NY.

        Whatever happens, it’s shaping up to be a pretty awesome closing couple of months in MLS East. I definitely like our chances. Just got to get all the points we could. 3 on Saturday will be huge. A loss will be pretty deflating, allowing Toronto to jump ahead of us again.

      • Pretty good rundown of playoff chances and schedule — Philly has the easiest remaining schedule in the league:

      • I wonder about this schedule strength methodology. NYRB have remaining games against Seattle, LA, DC, and KC. So how do they have one of the easier league schedules remaining??

  7. Anyone know what the deal was with Nogueira?!!!

    • Injured during practice.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      “Midfielder Vincent Nogueira also missed the match because of a right groin strain sustained in training. Curtin said an MRI was negative and he does not believe the injury will keep Nogueira out long-term. At the same time, though, the manager said he was not yet sure of the player’s status for Saturday.” — From Philly.com article by: Jake Kaplan

  8. it’s like back in the day when the sun sets and I feel the pressure to do my best, my very best, but I can’t because I’m still not in my groove, but even though I’m not at my best I still score FTW and even though it’s sloppy it still counts…

  9. FYI – game is at 2pm Saturday on The Comcast Network (846 for most) and not CSN.

  10. Not much to add but I agree with the BC criticism. The thing that is misleading is that he looks like he is involved defensively. The truth is his lead foot creates turnover and creates pressure that he or a teammate has to diffuse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *