Philadelphia Union Keep Playoff Hopes Alive With Toronto FC Win

Zac MacMath

Philadelphia Union/ Twitter/ @PhilaUnion

Two Major League Soccer coaches have been fired this season so far;  those two teams met last night at PPL Park in Chester, PA on a beautiful night for soccer.

The Philadelphia Union, who sit in seventh place in the ever-tightening Eastern Conference, hosted Toronto FC, who saw former US International Greg Vanney make his coaching debut after replacing former New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen.  Nelsen had a falling out with management as the team struggled for points with injuries mounting.  This match saw Toronto without leading scorer Jermain Defoe due to injury.  The Union were missing several key players, including Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi and Colombian defender Carlos Valdes, who were with their respective national teams.  Also missing was midfielder Vincent Nogueira, who suffered an apparent groin injury during training this week.  Toronto recalled defenders Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan from the Canadian national team due to their injury crisis.

The match was an even affair with both sides playing tough and defending.  Toronto held a slight possession advantage, but really only tested Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath once, making a big save on a Gilberto header.  Gilberto began the match on the bench but after a scoreless first half he was brought on to replace midfielder Jonathan Osorio to provide more offense.  That header was Toronto’s best chance all night.

Gilberto’s header came just two minutes after Conor Casey scored the only goal, slamming the ball home on a beautiful counterattack that was started by a tremendous pass by Cristian Maidana to a streaking, red-hot Sebastien LeToux.  LeToux found himself wide open on the right wing, sprinted toward goal and hit a hard, low cross toward the penalty spot for Casey.  Casey buried the shot past a helpless Joe Bendik, who made several big saves to keep his team in the game.  The goal came in the 55th minute.

As Toronto pressed the attack, hunting for the equalizer, LeToux made perhaps his biggest play of the game when he blocked a pass near midfield.  The ball caromed toward the Toronto goal and LeToux raced past the Toronto defense to pick up the ball.  He blew past Morgan who could only grab LeToux from behind just outside the box, pulling him down in the process.  Morgan was whistled for the foul and, as the last defender, was given a red card for denying LeToux a clear goalscoring opportunity.  This occurred in the 77th minute; the Union were able to see out the match, recording their first shutout since a 3-0 victory of Chivas USA at the end of May.

The win gives the Union a vital three points in the race for the playoffs and puts the Union even on points with the Columbus Crew and Toronto for the final two spots.  However, the Union are still on the outside looking in due to tiebreakers, which go to Columbus and Toronto.  Due to some strange scheduling these two teams will play again Saturday, this time in Toronto, in another crucial match as the playoff races gets even hotter.

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Adam Stefanik is a writer for Stoppage Time Soccer. Follow him on Twitter @AdamSGT36

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