Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-3 Toronto FC

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union began the 2019 season with a disappointing performance, falling once again to Toronto FC 3-1 at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday afternoon. A Michael Bradley brace off two defensive miscues soured the Union’s rollout of a new formation — and several big, new signings. Philadelphia dominated the struggling Toronto B-side all over the field, but they never really created enough chances to pepper the Canadians’ goal.

Toronto FC happily ceded possession to begin the game, but Philadelphia found little space to operate with Marky Delgado and Michael Bradley trailing new Union No. 10 Marco Fabian in his MLS debut.

The Union responded to Toronto’s tactics with Haris Medunjanin and Jack Elliott pinging balls over the top to Cory Burke or behind Toronto’s back line to Fafa Picault and Burke, but neither were able to test Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono.

Philadelphia’s first real chance came with an Alejandro Bedoya flick off a corner kick in the 25th minute that just bounced off the inside post.

Toronto started pushing the Union deeper with big switches of play that dragged the Union’s diamond midfield quartet across the field. A Nick DeLeon header across the box was saved by the outstretched arms of Andre Blake. The rebound rolled down the endline, where Jonathon Osorio tried to cross it back into the box. The ball hit Union left back Kai Wagner’s back, and referee Nima Saghifi started his rollercoaster of a day by pointing to the spot.

But Andre Blake is Andre Blake. The Jamaican international saved a poor Osorio penalty attempt.

The Union’s momentum was short-lived, though. Three minutes into stoppage time, a low ball across the box from Auro made it all the way into the penalty area to find a totally unmarked Michael Bradley streaking toward goal with a late run for the first goal of the 2019 MLS season.

The blue and gold started strong again in the second half, often finding Picault, Ilsinho, and Burke with the ball at their feet deep in Toronto’s half, but all were wasteful with their chances.

That lack of killer instinct burned the Union just 15 minutes into the half when a cross deflected by Andre Blake again fell to a totally unmarked Bradley at the top of the 18, who thumped the ball past Blake.

Jim Curtin was prompted to make his first substitution of the game soon after, bringing in Sergio Santos for his Union debut with a surprise swap with Ray Gaddis. The change pushed the Union into a 3-5-2 with Ilsinho and Picault playing as wingbacks.

The shift didn’t dramatically change the game, but the Union were gifted a comeback chance when an Ilsinho cross was cut off by Jonathon Osorio’s hand just inside the box for a penalty. Marco Fabian cooly hit the bottom corner in the 73rd minute to give the Union hope for a comeback.

A tying goal almost came immediately in the 75th when the already chaotic match descended into real madness. A loose ball in the Toronto box nearly slipped over the line, but Ciman cleared it off the chalk at the very last moment. The River End demanded VAR, but Saghafi took his time again deciding not to review the play.

Minutes later, Sergio Santos made his first impact with the blue and goal when he delivered a hard foul on Drew Moor that appeared to knock the defender out — sending both teams ready to throw hands.

But the Union’s fighting spirit waned and there were no real chances for Philadelphia — even with five (yes, five) attackers on the field. Toronto officially sealed the result with some poor passing by the backline that gifted Nick DeLeon an open look on goal. The MLS veteran didn’t waste his opportunity and cemented a disappointing first game of 2019 in Chester.

Three points
  • Small mistakes, big impact: A lost Michael Bradley run, defenders caught ball-watching off a cross, and a lazy clearance were small mistakes, but they killed any chance for the Union to beat Toronto
  • Not enough tempo: The 4-4-2 looked solid enough most of the game, but a veteran diamond midfield wasn’t quick or athletic enough to assert anything like that “ferocious” press the team has been building up; Ilsinho, Fabian, Bedoya, and Medunjanin just don’t seem quick enough to carry out Ernst Tanner’s plans.
  • MLS is back… and so is PRO: A strange and terrifying refereeing performance from Nima Saghafi that felt more like a cry for help than a man doing his job; the 4th official didn’t help much, denying VAR when it seemed pretty obvious and letting Toronto waste dozens of minutes without adding any stoppage time

Philadelphia: Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis (Sergio Santos 68′), Jack Elliot, Auston Trusty , Kai Wagner, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho (David Accam ’73), Fafa Picault. Unused subs: Brenden Aaronson, Warren Creavalle, Mark McKenzie, Carlos, Olivier, Mbaizo

Toronto: Alex Bono, Chris Mavinga, Auro, Laurent Ciman, Drew Moor, Justin Morrow, Nick DeLeon (Jay Chapman 90+5), Michael Bradley, Marco Delgado, Jonathon Osorio, Jordan Hamilton (Terrence Boyd 74′). Unused subs: Ashtone Morgan, Ayo Akinola, Eriq Zavaleta, Liam Fraser, Quentin Westberg

Scoring summary

TOR — Michael Bradley (Auro) 45+3

TOR — Michael Bradley 61′

PHI — Fabian (PK) 73′

TOR — DeLeon (Osorio) 90+4

Misconduct summary

PHI – Fafa Picault  (caution) 30′

TOR — Michael Bradley (caution) 54′

PHI — Sergio Santos(caution) 81′

TOR — Jonathon Osorio (caution) 83′


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Funny how it really doesn’t matter what formation you use when you don’t put shots on target.

  2. Joseph G Barnett says:

    Seriously Bradley 2 goals thru the middle and unmarked! Seen enough after game 1 to realize Harris is just too slow to be any defensive help at all in Curtins Diamond and Fabian can take care of the direct kicks . No Need for Harris on this team. Jones must start in his spot next week. Nobody could finish today. Fafa and Burke missed opportunities. Santos appears to be a thug. Did not see anything from him. Sad start of season after first 20 minutes of hope that fizzled.

  3. It’s not at all and excuse for the Union, who were poor, but officiating was a horror show. There should have been 15 minutes of stoppage time in the second half alone. I swear there was more time spent by players following Saghafi around the pitch than there was actual play on the ball. And it turns out VAR is no better than the clowns controlling it.

    Aside from that, it was just poor everywhere for the Union. Finishing was dreadful. Defending a shambles. Free kicks were poor. I am sorry for all the poor people who travelled to Talen for that.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    One thing not mentioned in the match report was the quality of the pitch. Although it was redone and looked a different shade of green than in the past, it looked like clumps of grass were coming up in several places.

    • That was an issue during the USWNT game Wednesday night too

    • It’s newly laid sod and it’s still dormant. When the ground temps warm up and the grass “wakes up” it will be a terrific surface. Temporary condition and there’s no avoiding it because you don’t want to do that kind of thing in season.

  5. Curtin and his love of his favorites strikes again. With that diamond lineup there is virtually no defense being played. Bedoya can’t do it all himself. Haris really doesn’t fit this team anymore and the sooner Curtin realizes this the better. Ilsinho can’t start.
    This match exemplifies why I dislike Curtin so much. I knew what a s**t show this was going to be when I saw Tansey’s Twiter quote from him about these players in the diamond. #ClosetheCurtin

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      What was the quote?

      • “The diamond four that we played against D.C. is as talented as any midfield in our league when you talk about Haris, Bedoya, Ilsinho, and Marco.”
        He then followed with “You have Creavalle and Jones to be more of the ball winners and break things up. We got to that maybe on the road a bit more.”

      • Sorry, got should be go. I terribly retyped the quote.
        That Curtin sees no issue with starting those 4 players is what baffles me.

  6. Another year, another half-assed product on the field.

    What the hell was Wagner doing on the third goal?

    The team is poorly constructed; the team is poorly coached, and has at lest three players starting who would not start anywhere else in MLS.

    Recipe for mediocrity at best.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I don’t think they’re poorly constructed. I think it’s going to take a manager better than a Curtin to find the right way to make this work, which for me, means finding a better #6. Haris won’t do

  7. el Pachyderm says:

    Good news union fans. At least if the soccer doesn’t improve, we can always smoke, “The Kentucky Blue Grass.”
    The first two goals are why Haris Medunjanin can’t be expected to play. He was completely stoned defensively.
    On the Piccault whiff…. how in the world does a professional soccer player take a full swing from inside the 6 with his right foot when simply opening the left hip deflects the ball in goal?
    Beyond that, a great first game of the NFL season.
    A round of applause to MLS. I waited since November for that.

    • Sorry, I’m actually allergic to Kentucky Blue grass. Unfortunately it’s one of the most popular grasses used in our area. Summers suck.
      Yup on Haris.
      Piccault is not a great goal scorer which is why he ended up in MLS.
      MLS Refs are a joke and so is PRO.

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    Can’t say the Union were anything but average but holy balls that refereeing was just MLS at it’s finest. Time wasting. Fake injuries and what appeared to be fake head injuries so the ref would have to stop play. Union had the momentum and the ref just let Toronto ruin the last 15 mins by falling down at every touch. Ref had no control. And no where near enough stoppage time in the 2nd half.
    Haris is a problem defensively and frankly, offensively as well. He offered nothing going forward. Bad corners and restarts all day. Not to mention not tracking on the Bradley goals. Didn’t like his play at all.
    Santos was too late as a sub.
    To say I am concerned would be an understatement. Curtin’s not making it out of March.

  9. Great One says:

    Obviously officiating was terrible. But Haris was worse, clear cut blame on both first goals. Also, new season and same bad lineups, no adjustments and late subs. May not be a long season for Curtin. Burke and Gaddis with tough games too. Solid showing from Bedoya and Fabian. Gonna be a rough start to the season.

  10. Please explain why Bradley was able to harass the ref up and down the pitch with no card. It was maddening. And the guys with red shirts could fall down and draw a penalty…yes the U were not good but the official was just as poor.

    • US national team captain, Toronto has won a cup and MLS has to keep the Canadians happy.

    • Section 114 (Former) says:

      It’s rare to see someone score two goals, earn two red cards, and still play the victim.
      Already tuned out on the formation, Curtin, and Sugarman.

  11. During HT they spoke to a new sponsor who is handing the recycling and waste removal. The owner of that company mentioned they recycled tons of dirt from the pitch…..so I’m wondering if that new surface that was sodded over is the issue? The grass definitely is different and was sloughing off like dead skin.

    The officials are complete muppets and PRO is an absolute dumpster fire period.

    Not enough athleticism in that diamond today combined with the fact that Curtin is still way out of his depth…..if the U loose 5 straight Curtin should be gone period

    10 years of sub-par play, players, and overall product…..We as a paying/supporting fan base deserve way better.

  12. Good thing that no one cares about the Chester Union.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Yet you take the time to post. Thanks for the page view idiot

      • Happy Bob is/was a regular on the philly dot com soccer coverage for years. Sorry to see him here. Wait until he starts complaining about the DRPa and City of Chester tax issues. While he may not be wrong, it certainly adds nothing to a discussion of formations and game strategy.

  13. Haris out. ((Jones wasn’t even in the 18).
    Aaronson was about to come in right before the penalty, but Fabián scored and he never saw the pitch. Curtin had the right idea and should had made the move even with the goal. Fabián was being mugged and not allowed any space. When you’re working to full fitness that’s not a good place to be in the final 15 minutes.
    Gaddis offers so little (and is not seen as a threat) that we literally didn’t play the ball down the right at all, all day even though they were giving us acres of space. You must play Mbaizo, Curtin. Ray is just standing there doing nothing, you must see that right?
    Wagner (even though he made the mistake that led to the 3rd goal) is a very good pick up. He’s composed on the ball, reads the game well, has speed, and worked up and down the flank with poise and courage. We have a left back.
    Elliot fairly solid day. Trusty was a little shaky.
    When Marco and Bradley were going toe to toe, after Bradley’s card, as a fan it wasn’t lost on you that Bradley is the former USMNT captain staring down a Mexican national. Conflicted is the word that comes to mind.
    One game. Same story. #Thisisphilly

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Only thing I have faith in is that we will not slog through a season of Curtin not knowing what to do to right the ship. Tanner will fire him. Haris can’t play the next few games. He just can’t. If he does, I’d fire Jim after those games, just for that.

    • I recall reading the Mbaizo was nursing an injury. If so, I can live with Gaddis for one game.
      I agree that Wagner looked good (other than the obvious mistake on the 3rd). Should be a good challenge for Real.
      Haris was terrible. I was quite concerned about him in this new formation, and all those worries came true this game. He offered little in the way of protection for the CBs, and then did his usual “point at the dangerous guy instead of tracking him” schtick. Ugh. You’re not going to do worse with Jones in there, and there’s a damn good chance he’ll do better.
      I loved Curtin’s first sub, though I wish it came earlier. I liked the 2nd, though it definitely needed to come earlier. Where was the 3rd?
      And finally… I thought MLS was supposed to be cracking down on mobs of players following the ref and harassing him? Ugh. Several people have mentioned TFC’s antics, especially Bradley. But the Union were guilty of it too. MLS really needs to crack down on this and get it under control. It’s one thing for the captain – and only the captain – to discuss something (which does give Bradley some leeway). It’s another for a pack of players to harangue the ref.

  14. PhillyGunner says:

    I’ve been watching Haris for over 2 years now, still waiting to see him make a tackle! If I’m the opposing coach I just play thru him.

  15. Two worst players on the field Medujanin and Trusty. First goal was actually Trusty’s fault for not stepping up
    To cover Bradley. Instead, he keeps sitting back in no mans land and Bradley is able to push forward and slide into the 18 unmarked for the goal. Harris was the culprit for the 2nd goal. He guy caught watching the play go by as he stood there like a tree. Bradley commits the same exact play !! Haha. Horrible. Harris is our D mid with this line up ????? Really Curtin?? I told you last year there needs to be a Dmid when playing certain teams !! It’s obvious!! Bradley should have been covered by Jones or Creavalle. He’ll never fucking learn. And quite frankly, those two aren’t de behind with quality passing compared to Harris. He couldn’t even take good corners or free kicks! His only fucking job!!!

  16. How dare you say anything was Trusty’s fault? He is the anointed one. Mistake after mistake, blunder after blunder, own goal in big spot after own goal in big spot, he will play and the Coach and announce team will alibi for him.

    He played for the Academy so he does no wrong. Must keep selling suburban Moms and Dads on the fantasy that Junior will make the big club someday.

    • UnionGoal says:

      Just curious but does union have a requirement to include a quota of “locals” in academy? I know they can’t poach within 75miles of another club’s academy–and curious how that works with nycfc, nyrb, and DC with union–but that leaves huge areas of WORLD open and I know union has a number of members who aren’t local by any stretch making “homegrown” a dishonest word to use in most cases, right? What percentage are local?

      As for trusty, both he and McKenzie are still maturing. Formation changing, and new personnel take time to gel.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      He’s a good young center back. Let’s not make this something it’s not. There are plenty of players who have come through the academy and can’t sniff playing time.

  17. Spot on Elvado!!! I thought i was the only one who’s sees this. Haha.

  18. How is it even possible for him to make his first sub in the 68th minute every single time?

    I called it in the 63rd…and 67:20 into the game…

    was a decent sub and change in tactics, but almost every single time it’s the same exact minute.

    And, how is Jones not in the 18?

    • Yea Idk. There’s so much that needs to be looked at. Idk if Ilsinho took it upon himself or if Curtin told him to take everyone on 1 on1 every time he had the ball to his feet. Medujanin and Trusty were trash. Curtins prized players. They will always see the pitch every game. Only coach I’ve ever seen starring into apexes the whole time with his hands in his pockets all game !!! What is that !!!

  19. medujanin cannot be the defensive part of the diamond in this new 4-4-2 either move him up in the diamond and install creavelle or jones or even bedoya would protect the back line better, and ilsinho has to be a sub and the refereeing was Geigerlike. . . is vincent nogierra ready to come back from France

  20. We have four strikers at one point and only a penalty kick goal to show for it. Meanwhile CJ Sapong scores in his first game with Chicago in a one striker system…

  21. Tim Herring says:

    Again,it is LONG past time that Mr. Tanner should have fired Mr. Curting and the fans should have fired Mr. Sugarman. Atlanta did what needs to be done — and DID IT VERY QUICKLY IN TWO years. Houston, we have a problem in Philadelphia/Chester.

  22. I just checked NBC sports Philly for the hell of it to see what they wrote about the match. They didn’t write anything. They haven’t written anything since the Rosenberry trade. I knew that sight was becoming trash, but it still says something they haven’t even bothered to type the 4 lines about the match they usually do.

  23. I have to say, I didn’t feel Elliot had such a great game from a passing standpoint, there were quite a few balls lost that were hopefull at best, but flat boneheaded in a few situations. He had better options in most cases.
    It wasn’t “the game” but the Union spend a lot more time tracking back to their own end because of it.
    Count me among those who were disappointed to see Ilsinho in the lineup.
    I read an article the other day touting Picault’s “finishing skills”…I hope this game’s display put and end to that talk, because I haven’t see it since he’s been here. Now I’m not saying he hasn’t put the ball in the net on occasion, but I’ve seen a LOT more of what happened today than happy endings. How many breakaways did he have last season that led to nothing? His stock is falling in my eyes.
    I understand Santos is still dinged a bit.
    I will never be the one to play the pathetic tune of “blame the ref” here, but it was obvious from a game/player management standpoint, Nima Saghafi was not big enough for the task.
    One game does not make a season. Onward.

    • Eddie the Eagle says:

      Guess from your first comment you’re more of a sideways and backwards possession man, rather than trying to get your two forwards in with a chance to get a sniff at goals since they didn’t have much service all game.

      Terrible refereeing, and Bradley was lucky to stay on the pitch.

      • I’d say Mr. R appears to be more of a “Let’s not just give it to the other team unnecessarily” kinda chap. Passing forward to THEIR forwards is what he seems to take issue with.

        Nobody likes to move it move backwards, but that’s exactly what happens when you simply gift the ball to the other team. So, it could be your guessing is a lot like Elliot’s passing yesterday. Poorly executed.

        And I think the game recap above (and nearly anyone who actually knows how to watch a game) agrees the forwards appeared to have plenty of chances yesterday, far more than Toronto’s. How many more did you want them to fail at converting? How WIDE OPEN NET did that net have to be for the GIFT Picault flat WHIFFED?

        Agree on Bradley, the match official was overwhelmed and intimidated all around.

  24. Coach Pease says:

    On our first game as season ticket holders, my 13-year-old was telling me while still nil-nil that we were giving up the middle and were going to get beaten by it. C’mon, Curtin! He’s 13!

    • UnionGoal says:

      Coach Pease,
      With all due respect and no sarcasm intended, what prompted you to buy season tickets this year?
      We attend 4-5 games a year but whenever talk came up about season tickets my wife pointed out both our busy schedule but also unlike Phillies tickets the unused union Tix appear to have little resale value. We attend games at cheaper than sth prices usually through soccer club deals or from friends who gave up selling them on StubHub.
      So curious what made you buy.
      Thank you.

  25. All winter, we watched the team being assembled. Then with the possibility of a new formation due to Earnie ‘s departure, and Santos and Fabian signing on, I thought that a corner had been turned. Yesterday, Picault, Burke and Bedoya had actual chances go wrong, but those chances arose from over the top, kick and run attacks. Somebody threw a switch, and the offense returned to the muddled, featureless mess of the dead times last year. Somebody needs to get through to this team that the coaching staff cannot do for them on the field; abandoning what was working was a mistake, and the lack of coherence to the attack after the shot hit the post was the problem. Add a failure to take Bradley seriously as an offensive threat and both teams whining and yapping about every little thing, and this year is off to a bad start. I realize that it is only one game but this team always finds a new way to confound the fans. Some years it is an inability to find somebody to take a shot. Other years, it is a failure on set pieces, either way. Let’s hope that this year isn’t the year of whining and whiffing.

  26. Yea having no Dmid was probably the biggest mistake by Curtin. No one staying with Bradley all game. Did Curtin tell them to play zone coverage? If so that’s stupid playing against Bradley. The two worst were Medunjanin and Trusty. Period.

  27. “The River End demanded VAR, but Saghafi took his time again deciding not to review the play.”

    — Why didn’t they review this? Isn’t VAR for potential goals? Even the highlights wouldn’t show it a second time.

  28. The Truth says:

    I’m late to the complaint party but I’ll jump on in anyhow.
    Blake did what he could. Elliot had a better game than Trusty. Wagner was my man of the match for looking so decent in his debut. Gaddis was Gaddis, toothless offensively. Haris was abysmal and it’s too frustrating to articulate anything more than that. Bedoya was his typical self, playing selflessly, putting out fires all around him. Ilsinho does not fit this formation and cannot be relied upon for more than 20 minutes. Accamm was invisible (except for one defensive track-back that pleased me). Fabian showed his pedigree, was obviously frustrated by the lack thereof surrounding him. Fafa had an inexcusable whiff. Burke did what he could, meh. Sergio Santos looked hungry and I would’ve much preferred him in the XI.
    Overall it was clear to me, many of you, many of the fans, and pretty much all of the pundits that Haris cannot fill the role that’s asked of him. Michael Bradley is not a wizard. He was left open to finish chances that should not have existed. Ilsinho is another player that cannot fill a high press role that depends on all-in efforts on both sides of the ball. Gaddis will not be an offensive threat and in a formation without wingers, that will not work.
    The above three players cannot start in the next game if any other result is expected. Gaddis is the only one who could get a pass from me because if anything, he’s tenacious defensively. Say nothing that his replacement, Mr. Mbaizo, who may be injured and unavailable. Derrick Jones and Fontana/Aaronson need to be played in KC.

    • Agree with all of this. Honestly I’d take Accam/Picault starting at RB over Gaddis at this point. Gaddis is honestly so pathetic offensively and he’s extremely overrated defensively. He was caught up field many times (which is to be expected in this formation) and recovered worse that Wagner did while being completely useless upfield. There’s a reason Ilsinho had no room and that’s because Gaddis is so useless they just ignored him.

  29. Harris was awful that game. Horrendously awful on defense (and largely responsible for both of Bradley’s goals). Not much better initiating anything on offense.

    I liked what I saw from Fabian and Kai (and Burke and the little I saw of Santos). Bedoya was solid as usual.

    The only thing distracting from Harris’ awful play was that official. Just when you think MLS refereeing will start to get better, games like this pop up. That entire crew was awful. The lead referee looked like he was trying to reach the nirvana of sucktitude; trying to be the first to summit Mt. Sucktitude without oxygen. How Bradley remained in that game is inexplicable.

  30. So I think the issue with Ilsinho was that he was trying take opposing players on 1 v 1 every time he possessed the ball when he should have been looking to link up more and waiting for the best moments to go 1 v 1. Yes, i think he should be that secret weapon sub to come on and attack opposing defenders when they are tired instead of starting. It’s worked before and he has more or the same support that he had last year. He also is one of the only players so far that can score on this team and who can find the target when shooting. I think he’s still a crucial part of this system.

  31. 700 chopper says:

    Short and sweet
    Our new system sucks with these slow shit players
    Trusty and medujain ( super slow) really suck
    The officiating was horror move scary bad at best
    Curtin is as always a clueless tactician
    With this defense Blake is gonna get killed
    Please don’t let bedoya take corners any more it was embarrassing
    But I still try to love my team another year of season ticket regret
    Almost forgot lot A is still not paved and is a mud hole Go Union

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