Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 4-0 Toronto FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

On a crisp fall day, one meant only for apple picking and soccer, the Philadelphia Union sent Toronto FC into their offseason with a 4-0 pummeling.

The win clinched the Eastern Conference for the hosts, as well as an unbeaten home record for the season – the only team in the league to achieve that feat. The Union get a bye into the second round of the MLS Cup Playoffs as a result, irrespective of other scores around the league.

First half

Just minutes into the match, potential league MVP Daniel Gazdag opened the scoring. After a sublime interchange between Leon Flach and Matt Real on the left, the Hungarian number ten pummeled his full-volley chance into the far netting, giving the hosts the lead – and solidifying their place atop the Eastern Conference table, the first goal of Decision Day being their own.

Meanwhile in Miami, the team chasing the Union – CF Montreal – were up two goals to nil early, keeping the pressure on.

In the 14th minute, Julian Carranza was slipped through on goal by a deliciously flicked header. His chance smashed against the frame, with pressure from a retreating Toronto defense, and the lead stayed at one. If the first quarter of an hour meant anything, it was one of intent – that the Union were in fact the team that nearly won the Shield, not the one that laid an egg in Charlotte.

A potentially dangerous giveaway at midfield sprung the visitors on a 2v2, with Federico Bernardeschi leading the charge. After skinning his mark, the Italian was scythed down by a retreating Jack Elliot – much to the adoration of the home fans. The Italian didn’t like the challenge, but it was clean despite being heavy. The Union kept the pressure on Toronto’s playmaker and all over the field, things getting chippy on either end.

The Union kept their counterattacking movements time and again, but with little to show for their significant efforts. Meanwhile, the visitors flowed solely through Bernardeschi and his dancing feet – leaving Union players in his wake every time he found the ball, but the end result always ending meekly in Andre Blake’s hands. His inversion from the left caused the Union problems.

In the 42nd minute – with Montreal up now 3-0 – the Union’s counter finally found the mark. It was Gazdag with a first-time ball over the top to Mikael Uhre after the home side won possession in the left corner of their own end. Uhre ran on, turned his man, moved the ball to his preferred right foot, and slotted his rolled shot home into the far bottom corner of the net.

Then, just before the stroke of halftime, Olivier Mbaizo bailed out his other defenders, clearing a nearly perfect Toronto chance off the line. It was the visitor’s best opportunity of the afternoon, unpacking a well-positioned but scrambling Union back line, and an all-or-nothing bit of defending from the Cameroonian – the kind of thing he’s not always known for. As the halftime whistle blew, Flach blasted a half-volley with his right foot off Michael Bradley and wide.

As idyllic as the day was weather-wise, so too was the first half of the match: a Goldilocksian competition, hot enough to force the Union to be their best, but not too hot to bring injuries, suspensions, or other nonsense – to say nothing of the 2-0 lead.

Second half

The Union kept their pressure high early on, forcing last-ditch clearances from Toronto defenders and their goalkeeper. A miscommunication in the back forced Blake into an uncomfortable clearance that caromed off Jakob Glesnes – despite the chance, it wasn’t a beautiful restart to the match and the shadows began to creep across the Subaru Park grass.

Bernardeschi kept eluding quadruple-teams while the Union kept turning Toronto over and getting chances, and in the 56th Uhre blasted a chance off the keeper’s hands that was destined for the top corner. Off that chance and the ensuing corner, a visiting handball earned the hosts a penalty – it was certainly unlucky, if a penalty at all. Somehow, Toronto were given a solid few minutes to argue the quality of the call without being told to back off by the match official. Once VAR confirmed the infraction, it was Gazdag who stood over the ball – of course – and ripped the ball past his flat-footed opponent.

The Union padded their lead 3-0.

It was only a few minutes later when the Union’s all-time season scoring leader Daniel Gazdag found his hat trick. The Union pressed high, forced a bad pass and carom in the back, and the number ten only needed two touches to get around the Toronto defense and push the ball into the bottom corner. It was 4-0 Union, the kind of psychologically dominant performance fans have become accustomed to in 2022.

Toronto didn’t give up, though they did substitute four players in a few short minutes. Notably, Bernardeshi and Bradley stayed on through the first two waves of changes – a credit to their commitment. In the same breath, Cory Burke gave Uhre his regular season curtain call and the team’s newest striker received a resounding cheer from the full house home crowd.

In the 75th, Alejandro Bedoya came on for Jack McGlynn, getting a partial run in as he returns to fitness. Both players earned cheers from the crowd, and moments later the Union nearly had their fifth but were undone by another Toronto handball – this one outside the box, but preventing another counterattack from coming to fruition. The ensuing free kick was rebounded out to Jose Martinez who took his trademark rocket shot first time and into the River End… as Danny Higginbotham said on the broadcast, “One day.”

The crowd started to thin at this point, with a notable number of Union fans making their way to tailgates or back home for the Eagle’s game in Arizona. Toronto wasn’t done with the match though and Bernardeshi finally let Martinez into his head, the ever-catalyzer baiting the attacker into a yellow card for a trip as the ball was gone, but not beyond the purview of the official. Dark arts and all that.

When the Italian was finally brought off, Martinez was right behind him, having helped neutralize the visitor’s best player for nearly ninety minutes without a booking.

In the 90th minute, the Union’s front line was still pressing and opening space. Julian Carranza had a wonderful look from the right side late, but a kick save kept the ball wide. The ensuing corner gave the Union have several chances, each of which were blocked or parried wide, and the referee took pity on the visitors – the match had no stoppage time.

Three Points
  • A Real, professional effort Matt Real has been stuck behind Kai Wagner for several years at left back. When called upon however, he has performed well, and he did so on the night, involved heavily in the team’s first goal and never looking out of place.
  • The definition of insanity Toronto is notorious in 2022 for pushing players forward and leaving their 3-man backline on an island. Despite their record and the Union’s penchant for picking on high-lined teams, the visitors found themselves running toward their own goal with Union players pushing them on quite a few occasions, including the second goal.
  • Ever-upward With few exceptions, the Union have continued their multi-year upward trajectory this season, one complete destruction after another. That Toronto was the latest team to be on the “0” end of an unsightly scoreline, the same Canadian team so many national pundits drooled over because of their Football Manager-like lineup, was perhaps poetic.

Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Matt Real, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez (Quinn Sullivan – 86′), Jack McGlynn (Alejandro Bedoya – 73′), Leon Flach, Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre (Cory Burke – 66′), Julian Carranza

Unused subs: Matt Freese, Nate Harriel, Paxten Aaronson, Brandan Craig, Richard Odada, Chris Donovan

Toronto FC

Westberg, O’Neill, McNaughton (Mbongue – 68′), Mavinga, Petrasso (Antonoglou – 60′), Okello (Akinola – 60′), Bradley, Kave, Marshall-Rutty, Jimenez (Henry – 68′), Bernadeschi (Nelson – 84′)

Unused subs: Chung, Achara, Bono, Kerr

Scoring Summary

PHI: Daniel Gazdag — 4′

PHI: Mikael Uhre – 42′ (Gazdag)

PHI: Daniel Gazdag – 60′

PHI: Daniel Gazdag – 63′

Discipline Summary

TOR: Michael Bradley — 29′

TOR: Mavinga – 65′

TOR: Bernardeschi – 81′


  1. That was a good regular season for us.

  2. Micah Bertin says:

    Others will offer more thoughtfull comments. I am happy to be the first to congratulate the boys on setting the all-time MLS 34 Game season record for least goals allowed (27) at 26. Clean sheet baby!

  3. Murphthesurf says:

    Congratulations DOOP ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️

    Rest up, heal and win it ALL !!!

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Disappointed that Gazdag couldn’t get his 4th and put some pressure on Mukhtar for the golden boot. (Actually, I think Mukhtar had one more assist to win the tiebreaker.)
    Nice to see Blake end the season with the most clean sheets.
    Hoping that the game against the New Jersey-Cincinnati winner is on Thursday the 20th rather than Sunday the 23rd so the Union don’t have too much time off.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Forgot to mention that I was really happy they honored JP Dellacamera before the game. Really going to miss his calls on the Union away games next year.

      • Micah Bertin says:


      • +1

      • I will miss JP as well. And I thought Higginbotham did a great job as well. I really fear how Apple TV will do with the broadcasts and that streaming will be a crappy way to view the game (especially if I cannot watch the game in real time due to a conflict and I won’t be able to skip commercials or through slow play like I can with my DVR)

      • Agreed. To me (and I know I am betraying my age here), JP was the voice of USA soccer, having been the broadcaster of many USMNT games (as well as USWNT games) from the mid-1990s forward. One of things that I particularly like about JP’s calls are his frequent annotations of the time (“We are in the 65th minute.”) and the score. I have noticed that the broadcasters across the pond do not do this routinely and it makes the radio reporting difficult to follow.

      • You may be betraying your age, but when they honored him, I mentioned that I first remembered hearing him during the ’94 World Cup.

      • Atomic Spartan says:

        Pre’94, JP was voicing USMNT friendlies branded as the World Series of Soccer. Mourn the passing of an era. Nobody in the US is as good as he was or is.

    • The 4/5 matchups are officially on Saturday, so it looks like the Union will be be playing Thursday night, the 20th.

      • They are…and MLS and FOX in their infinite wisdom have scheduled the Union game for 8pm and the LAFC for 10, so they’ll have to either miss or push back the latter if the former goes to overtime.

  5. What a team. Phenomenal season. Let’s keep it going.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    It’s official. With LAFC’s loss to Nashville, the Union would have been credited as the best team in every league except MLS.
    And it wasn’t like LAFC wasn’t trying given that they had 29 shots including 14 shots on goal.

    • OneManWolfpack says:


    • That’s a really interesting point. Who decided ‘wins’ was better over ‘goal difference’, and why does the rest of the world disagree?

      • MLS changed from goal differential to wins to reward teams which go for wins rather than avoiding losses. The hope was to reduce the bunkering of visiting teams and get teams playing more exciting soccer.

  7. What a great season! This team ,and the atmosphere in the stadium is something fun!! Come on playoffs!

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    Revenge tour 2022 continues… let’s go MFers!!!

  9. I don’t relish the idea of playing the orange and blue union (cincy). They are playing some pretty dynamic ball and we failed to beat them twice. This is gonna be an interesting playoff ride.

    • They are the only team in the East the Union didn’t have at least one win against during the regular season.

      • I don’t want Cincinnati either. The rotating fans behind us were complaining about the U looking bad against Cincy in June. And had no idea they had one of our coaches as the their head coach. Noonan is a good coach and gives the U fits. I’d rather have Pink Cow! And another BBQed burning bull!

      • It’s a tough call. Both teams gave the Union a hard time at Subaru Park. New Jersey was clearly the better road team overall. Neither team will be a pushover, nor would Montreal be an easy game if they meet in the conference finals.

  10. Thank you Herr Tanner, Jim and all 2022 players. Simply the best season ever…. so much fun, all in one season! No matter what happens, know it was the best!

    And Gazdag missed Golden Boot by 1 goal? WOW… so cool to watch that hat trick yesterday in person.

    All anyone at MLS.com could write, for weeks? Drussi and Muktar.

    National Media Ducks…. controlled by “Head CLOWN Garber”.

    Thursday Oct 20th… bring ANYONE to Chester. It’s OUR year! Doop!

  11. Here are a couple of observations from Section 105 yesterday:

    1) The Union started on the front foot and kept the pressure on throughout the 90 minutes. They cannot win without playing that style.

    2) We had a perfect view of Daniel Gazdag’s rocket of a full volley for the first goal. That is a very difficult piece of skill and it was fitting that it was goal No. 20 for him. He has truly blossomed this year for the Union.

    3) Fear not, Union faithful. When Kai Wagner is picked up by a European team, we have a left back and his name is Matt Real. He had an outstanding game yesterday.

    4) Had I been Bernadeschi’s teammate, manager or owner, I would have been extremely disappointed in his effort. He frequently loafed back to onsides positions, and his free kicks were laughably bad–think high school.

    5) The penalty call was extremely harsh. While I think that this evens out the Union for harsh handballs, 2 for, 2 against for the season, I do not like to see them called. What I do like to see called is deliberate handballs outside the box in play, 2 of which (by Toronto) were missed by the ref.

    6) Mbaizo’s save was a thing of beauty–true highlight reel stuff, and it came at an important time of the match just before halftime.

    7) I commented earlier to Andy Muenz’ post, but we were very lucky to have JP Dellacamera calling the Union matches. I miss him already.

    • I agree, but not ready to proclaim Real as a drop in replacement for Wagner. Had a great view of him the first half from section 114 since I figured Toronto would focus on him. No doubt he had a good game, but I saw several times he had some indecision and looking unsure of his next move, which, I hope, is mitigated with some more first team minutes. His help on the buildup on that first goal though was very nice to watch.

      • He had some “stone foot” touches in the first half, but nothing that playing time won’t cure.
        He got better and more relaxed as the game went on.

  12. Reason #4,672 I’m going to miss the local broadcast team next year – at some point during the match, Danny made a comment about a tactical adjustment Union had made with McGlynn dropping behind Mbaizo when they advanced the ball. This allowed McGlynn to be deeper and use his passing ability more while reducing the need for him to drive forward on his weaker foot.
    This commentary is only possible if the analyst has seen the previous two matches with the same lineup, most likely watched practice, and even may have spoken with the manager about tactics. We have been spoiled as fans with our local broadcast teams and I thought this was a perfect example in their swansong.

    • Apple executives have to staff all those soccer broadcasts for the next ten years.
      Who would be the obvious hires?
      Of course that assumes that the executives are concerned about the quality of their new product and that they possess intelligence and discernment.
      Other broadcasters do seem to recycle the ones they consider successful. Amazon hired Al Michaels, who was the voice of the early Big Red Machine in the earliest 1970s.
      Uncertainty? you betcha. Disaster? wait and see. the league and the clubs will be lobbying for quality.
      I have the impression the Union top brass were not happy with the quality of the livestreams on Union II matches, so much so that towards the end of the season they were doing something about it.

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