Needing three points to keep pace in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Union delivered an efficient 1-0 victory Wednesday night at PPL Park. Conor Casey recorded the lone goal in the second half and Zac MacMath came up big to preserve the victory.
The game started out sloppy but the Union were in control throughout most of the first half. Unlike in recent games under interim manager Jim Curtin, the Union had the bulk of possession in the first half. Though no goals were scored, the Union were able to manage two shots on target to Toronto's zero. Unfortunately for the Union though, their finishing was lacking throughout the first half. Toronto meanwhile were unable to test MacMath in the first half, registering zero shots on target in five attempts.
Things would change in the second half, though. The Union reverted to a more counter-attacking strategy in the second half and it would pay dividends. Cristian Maidana flicked a fancy pass to Sebastien Le Toux springing him down the right flank. Le Toux crossed it to Casey in the box who in one touch directed the ball on goal and past Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik. Bendik had been making save after save to bail out the Toronto defense, but eventually Toronto's lack of defensive caught up with them. It was excellent play from the Union who made it seem as if the Toronto defense had completely evaporated from the pitch.
Toronto's big chance at an equalizer came a few minutes later. Running along the side of the box, Dominic Oduro past the ball back for Gilberto. The Brazilian managed an open shot on goal but MacMath got a hand up and deftly prevented the ball from entering the net.
Fortunately for the Union, that would be Toronto's last major foray on goal and things would only dove tail for the Reds from there. 13 minutes from 90, Le Toux had a breakaway on goal with Ashtone Morgan trailing him. Morgan may have had a chance at a play, but instead he went for the collar grab to bring Le Toux down. Having witnessed the infraction, referee Jose Carlos Rivera wasted little time in issuing Morgan a deserved red card for denial of a goal scoring opportunity.
While the Union being up a man in the past has inspired some scary moments, blown leads, and heartbreak in the past, no such event would happen tonight. The Union were able to see a Toronto side ending the game in a 4-2-4 with little suspense.
The Union succeeded in shutting down Michael Bradley tonight. Though his season has not been the most spectacular, he still is Toronto's best player and he played like it tonight. But there was only so much he could do with some of the parts around him and what he could do was not enough on this day to beat the Union. Potential future USMNT teammate Amobi Okugo was effective in shutting Bradley down and even blocked a free kick of Bradley's in the first half.
All in all, this was a much needed win for the Union and they will hope to replicate the feat Saturday afternoon when they travel to Toronto for an instant rematch. Another three points, and the Union may soon be able to call themselves playoff contenders.