Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin was right. If they could keep a zero and get the first goal the floodgates would open.
The Union defense kept Toronto in check early and rode a dominant performance from Reds-killer Sergio Santos to three first half goals. Santos drew a penalty from Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono with his pace getting behind and added a goal of his own after Jakob Glesnes opened the scoring with a no look backwards header.
Dániel Gazdag scored his first goal for the Union from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute after his corner kick found the head of Glesnes in the 12th minute and José Andrés Martínez completed the first half onslaught against a sluggish Toronto with a splitting past to set up a breakaway goal for Santos.
Santos, who had four goals in two games against Toronto in 2020, was always going to be the danger man for the Union on his return from a one-game suspension for kicking a ball into the stands against Orlando City, but he was an absolute nightmare for a Toronto team riding a five-game unbeaten streak.
Toronto had a chance to cut into the three-goal lead when referee Ted Unkel pointed to the spot for a foul on Jack Elliott after Richie Laryea went down in the box in the 53rd minute. After talking on his headset he opted not to go to video review, but it didn’t matter in the end when Andre Blake saved a telegraphed attempt from Yeferson Soteldo.
In the end, the penalty was the closest Toronto would get to a goal in a much needed win for the Union ahead of a road trip to face conference leaders New England Revolution on Sunday and a trip to Mexico City to face Club América in the first leg of the Conacaf Champions League semifinals on August 12.
While the Union didn’t have any more magic moments in the second half, Curtin was able to get some rest for the starters with extended minutes for homegrown players Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn and Toronto could do little to threaten.
More importantly, the Union should take away some confidence and momentum with their first win in nearly three weeks and first clean sheet since June 23.