Despite playing some of their most attractive soccer since Jim Curtin took over as head coach, the Union only managed a draw against traveling Toronto FC on Saturday evening. In the 2-2 finish, the home side found their goals through Jay Simpson and CJ Sapong while Jozy Altidore and Justin Morrow tallied for TFC.
Simpson grabbed the Philadelphia Union’s first, and his first with the Union, just 11 minutes into the game. After Chris Pontius had knocked down an immaculate Haris Medunjanin diagonal, the Englishman headed home the ball. Either in the process of scoring the goal or slightly thereafter, Simpson sustained an injury that, as he later told Curtin, had an impact on his breathing. In the 29th minute, the injured striker made way for CJ Sapong. After the game, Curtin revealed that Simpson was in the hospital with a rib injury.
The first of two contentious penalty calls came in the 32nd minute, when Mark Geiger, the referee we all know and love, whistled Nick Hagglund for bringing down Fabian Herbers in the box. Alejandro Bedoya stepped up in the hopes of doubling his side’s lead, but his spot kick banged off the crossbar and bounced clear.
TFC earned a penalty of their own in first-half stoppage time, as Geiger judged Jones’s contact with Jozy Altidore to be illegal. Bedoya’s USMNT teammate took better advantage of his opportunity, slotting the ball right down the middle and evening up the game before the break.
Toronto took a brief lead off a 71st-minute restart, as Michael Bradley saw a sleeping Union defense and picked it apart. The midfielder’s ball into Justin Morrow caught both Keegan Rosenberry and Oguchi Onyewu off-guard, and as a result, the left wing back had all the time in the world to slide one under Andre Blake.
Just two minutes later, CJ Sapong picked up a beautiful through ball from Fabian Herbers and rounded Clint Irwin to lock the score at two. The 28-year-old timed his run to perfection, as he hung on the back shoulder of a Toronto center back and launched forward just as the ball left Herbers’s feet.
The Union looked the much better team during the run of play, but that’s obviously meaningless after the final whistle.
Two questionable calls
The Union played some high-quality, beautiful soccer in the first 25 minutes of tonight’s game, but that was eventually marred by two curious penalty calls. In both situations, there was hardly any contact. Unfortunately for the Union, Altidore converted his opportunity while Bedoya did not, and that, more than anything else, left points on the table for the home side.
Derrick Jones is for real
The 20-year-old midfielder earned national headlines for his debut in Vancouver last weekend, and he followed it up with an equally impressive performance against Toronto tonight. Jones might not make too tangible an impact on the scoresheet, but his work both off the ball and on it is so crucial to this midfield’s early success. His high defensive work rate and simple, calm passing play allows Medunjanin and Bedoya to focus their efforts toward the final third. At that position, that’s all that’s required out of Jones.
Oguchi Onyewu looks like he’s in his prime
At the ripe old age of 34, the 69-times-capped men’s national team player is the early star of the Union’s back line. Coming into the season, I considered him the defense’s weakest link, but he’s proven himself to be among the strongest. If he can solidify that back line with both his play and leadership, the Union will be well on their way to another playoff appearance.
The Union are back in action next Saturday, when they travel to Florida to explore Orlando City SC’s new stadium.