When Sergio Santos scored in the first half against Toronto FC earlier this month, it looked like it might be the start of a blowout that never materialized and instead ended up a frustrating 2-1 loss.
His goal in the 27th minute against Toronto on Saturday was just that, the opening salvo in the most complete performance of the season for the Union. Santos was at the center of an offensive explosion that could have been even more lopsided than the 5-0 final score line.
Combining with left back Kai Wagner, Santos created a nightmare scenario for the Reds back line with the first hat trick for the Philadelphia Union in more than three years.
“When Sergio gets going, he’s powerful, he’s so fast and his movement in the box tonight was excellent,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “It’s not easy to score a hat trick in this league, especially against a great team like Toronto.”
Curtin said he joked when Santos came off that he should have scored six, but the goals were there all night against a shorthanded Toronto team that was repeatedly carved apart by a Union offense firing on all cylinders.
After Quentin Westberg denied a couple early chances, it was a beautiful ball from Kai Wagner and a clever touch from Santos that put the Union up in the battle for first place not only in the Eastern Conference but for the Supporters’ Shield.
“He did a great job of eliminating that first defender with his service and he and Sergio had a great connection,” Curtin said of Wagner, who also set up Sergio’s second of the night in the 63rd minute. “Sergio will run a hundred times in the box, he’s willing to put the runs in, it’s our job to get him the crosses and the service.”
The hat trick was Sergio’s third multi-goal game in his Union career and his first professional hat trick.
“It was my first hat trick, I was very happy about it, but especially against a good team we’re playing for the top spot,” Santos said through a translator after the match. “My phone won’t stop ringing, getting a lot of messages right now but right now it’s time to keep working and hopefully we’ll get more goals.”
CJ Sapong scored the last Union hat trick on May 6, 2017 in a 3-0 home win over the New York Red Bulls. Sebastien Le Toux (April 10, 2010) and Roland Alberg (June 22, 2016) have the other two recorded in franchise history.