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Missing ‘killer instinct’ in first half comes back to haunt Philadelphia Union in loss

After taking an early lead through Sergio Santos, the Union had chances to stretch the lead but instead gave up two second half goals and dropped all three points

Morgan Tencza

When Sergio Santos chipped Quentin Westberg after running past Omar Gonzalez less than five minutes into the match, it looked like the Philadelphia Union could be on their way to another lopsided victory.

The pace of Santos against Gonzalez on the right side of the defense for Toronto made the deficit for the “home” team feel like a dangerous one right out of the gate. In four previous games this season when scoring inside the first half hour, the Union have gone on to win by a combined score of 12-3.

“There was so much space to play Sergio in behind and just burn a defender like (Omar) Gonzalez if we got the right timing and the right weight on the ball,” captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “I think it’s frustrating at this point that we didn’t get more out of this game.”

Sergio finished the night with only one more crack at goal in the 15th minute when a poor clearance fell to him in the box and he scuffed his shot wide of the target. Jamiro Monteiro had two good looks at goal in the first half with shots from long range. The first was denied only by a highlight-reel save from Westberg. Westberg also saved the follow from Kacper Przybylko, who was in an offside position when Monteiro ripped his shot.

Fewer chances came in the second half — one nearly fell to Anthony Fontana after coming on but he was closed down before he could get a shot off — and while the Union defense did well sustaining the pressure of a Toronto attack that had 58 percent of the possession for the night, ball watching on one play and a mental lapse somehow leaving Alejandro Pozuela unmarked on the back post on another led to the two goals Toronto needed to take all three points.

“I thought we played good for stretches in the game but not a complete game that you need to beat a good team,” head coach Jim Curtin said post-game.

With the Union sitting back and content to allow Toronto to possess the ball, the counter attack that was on never materialized into a goal that could have forced Toronto into playing things out much differently in the second half. Bedoya said it was at that moment with Toronto trailing that they needed to “have a better killer instinct.”

“It was there for the taking for us to really punish them on the counter in transition,” Bedoya said.

Toronto FC is just the second Eastern Conference team to get a win over the Union in 2020 after Columbus Crew won 1-0 at home on a deflected goal on September 2. For some reason, the Union have to play the Crew on the road again on November 1 in the penultimate game of the season.

“We are among those top teams in the league, and we’ll continue to work hard to improve,” Curtin said.

With the loss the Union fell to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but only three points separates them from first place Toronto with eight games left. They’ll get Toronto at home on October 24.