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Game Changers: Games of luck and skill

The Philadelphia Union were lucky to come away from their match with Toronto FC with a point. They were also unlucky to come away with just a point.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

1.) Back to front - Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin went with a brand new look against Toronto FC, putting Alejandro Bedoya at the 10 for the injured Tranquillo Barnetta and used a double-pivot central defensive midfielder combination of Warren Creavalle and Brian Carroll behind Bedoya. Normally we’d have expected Bedoya to remain in the 8, Creavalle or Carroll in the 6, and Roland Alberg in the 10 so this was a look that I’m sure Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney was not expecting. It worked well too, as Creavalle and Carroll were able to sit back a bit and absorb any offensive pressure shown by Toronto, who wound up with zero shots in the first half. Not shots on goal, but shots.

2.) Side to side - The Union were able to exploit Toronto’s formation in the first half, leading to a slew of chances. Toronto’s 4-4-2 diamond has Michael Bradley at the central defensive midfield position, Benoit Cheryou and Will Johnson as the central midfielders, and Jonathan Osorio as the attacking midfielder. This narrow formation allowed the tandem of Fabinho and Chris Pontius - and especially Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers to maraud up and down the sidelines relatively unchecked. When the central mids started to press out wide to defend against these runs, the Union were able to have Bedoya (and to an extent, Creavalle and Carroll too when they pushed up into the play) get space and good looks at goal.

3.) Up and over - This goal by Alejandro Bedoya is one of the top three goals in club history if you ask me (and since this is my column, I’ll just assume that you did). This all starts with Warren Creavalle getting a good step on Steven Beitashour’s pass to Jozy Altidore. Creavalle gets the ball to Bedoya, who then turns up field and hits CJ Sapong along the left sideline. Bedoya doesn’t stop running though, and Michael Bradley loses Bedoya who sprints upfield. Sapong turns it to Fabian Herbers, who played it through to Bedoya, who crept between Drew Moor and Jonathan Osorio. Bedoya was able to stay onside and did this to poor Clint Irwin.

Yeowch.

4.) Run straight through - In the 34th minute, Toronto had gotten a couple of good looks at the Union goal and although they didn’t get any shots in, they were set in the Union’s zone for a bit when Jordan Hamilton slipped his defender and ran in on goal. Then this happened:

Hamilton kicks at the ball and winds up kicking Blake in the head/face. This should have been a yellow card, as Blake could have been seriously hurt on the play, but no foul is called and play is allowed to continue. Ismail Elfath blew this call.

5.) Never give up - The Union were almost able to double their lead before the half on this shot by Fabian Herbers.

This play doesn’t happen if not for Warren Creavalle. This all starts when Creavalle looks to spring Alejandro Bedoya down the line. Bedoya gets stepped on by Justin Morrow and pulls up in pain. Creavalle then runs down his own pass past four Toronto defenders and picks it up on the line. This is the sort of play that creates chances and wins games. The Union were unlucky that Irwin made a fantastic save on Herbers’ shot.

6.) Need for greed - The Union could also have put the nail in the coffin in the 49th minute when Brian Carroll tried running forward and the ball was hit back by Drew Moor. Moor’s pass was intercepted by Alejandro Bedoya, who sent Brian Carroll in one-on-one with Clint Irwin. Carroll elected to play the ball left toward the onrushing CJ Sapong, who just missed doubling the Union’s lead.

I get that Carroll is a defensive midfielder whose primary job is to defend, but if you’re sent in on goal you have to shoot. Credit Clint Irwin for coming out and cutting down the angle on Carroll, and credit Michael Bradley who got back in time to defend against a Sapong shot.

7.) Out and around - Toronto made some adjustments in the second half that really helped them out. They dropped the central midfielders back on defense, which kept the Union from sending wave after wave of attacks at them like in the first half. This allowed Toronto to create some offensive chances and look for ways to exploit the Union’s defense. Toronto did this to perfection on the trying goal.

Justin Morrow was able to catch Keegan Rosenberry far upfield on a pass to Jonathan Osorio. Once Osorio had the ball, he was able to shrug off the challenge from Brian Carroll and cut inside. Once inside he froze Ken Tribbett and made Rosenberry overshoot before laying it down for Morrow, who trailed the play perfectly and hit a great shot that beat Andre Blake to draw the game level.

Rosenberry did well to get back and shouldn’t be faulted for being so far upfield, although one has to wonder where Ilsinho was on the play. Tribbett also has to commit to the tackle or drop back and mark Morrow - by not committing he does neither and allows the attack to proceed.

8.) Cooling down - Jozy Altidore had been on a tear before the Union game, scoring eight goals in the previous nine matches, including a brace against the New York Red Bulls the week before facing the Union. This may be a sign that his hot streak may be over.

Off of the post and then ten feet over the bar. Unlucky for Jozy, but that wasn’t the end of it.

9.) Luck runs out - Deep into stoppage, the Union were bunkering and looking gassed. Toronto was threatening, and in the final seconds this happened.

I think the Philadelphia Union got away with one here. Sapong clearly catches Altidore from behind, making no contact with the ball. Greg Vanney and the Toronto players were livid after this play, and I can’t say I blame them. I feel like there should have been a penalty awarded, and while I’m glad there wasn’t I also recognize just how lucky the Union were.

What do you think? Should Toronto been awarded a penalty? Was there another play in the match that changed the course of the game? Let us know in the comments section below!