The Philadelphia Union closed out its regular season on a high note on Sunday afternoon in a home victory against Toronto FC. A hat trick from Daniel Gazdag propelled the Union to a comfortable win, while the team clinched the first seed in the Eastern Conference for the second time in three years.
Jim Curtin rotated the Union’s lineup ahead of its final match, with captain Alejandro Bedoya starting on the bench due to injury and left-back Kai Wagner suspended due to a red card against Charlotte the week prior.
Let's do the dang thing, Philly⚡️— x - PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) October 9, 2022
https://t.co/joq6PPvIB8#StartingXI | #PHIvTOR | #DOOP | @MLS pic.twitter.com/OQScXLY5Uk
After getting shut out the match prior against Charlotte FC, the Union wasted no time in getting on the board. After Gazdag found a ball bouncing around inside the box, an elevated shot with his right foot tore into the net of Quentin Westberg.
First goal of @MLS Decision Day scored by yours truly, Daniel Gazdag— x - PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) October 9, 2022
Daniel scores his 20th goal of the season and this makes it his 7th consecutive home game goalazo!#PHIvTOR | 1-0 | #DOOP pic.twitter.com/j924Zx9t3A
Philadelphia came into the match to erase doubts that they would not secure the first seed in the Eastern Conference. Gazdag’s goal boosted the team, while Julian Carranza began a brief shoving match with a Toronto defender ten minutes into the game.
Carranza would nearly score a few minutes later, as his shot after sprinting down the pitch hit the crossbar but almost bounced off Westberg’s back into the net.
14' Julian takes a shot off the crossbar. Huntin' for another #PHIvTOR 1-0 | #DOOP pic.twitter.com/eykVcPCtIv— x - PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) October 9, 2022
The Union’s intensity continued on defense in the 23’ when Jack Elliott tracked back after a mistake to make a superb tackle on Federico Bernardeschi as the Italian raced toward the Union’s goal on a counterattack.
Philadelphia kept up its attack through the end of the first half when Mikael Uhre drew a yellow card against Westberg in the 40’. Moments later, Uhre would find the Union’s second goal after receiving a scoring through ball from Gazdag.
Mikael sends it into the far corner to bring the Union up 2-0 in the first⚡️#PHIvTOR 2-0 | #DOOP pic.twitter.com/7AJdeo7jM4— x - PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) October 9, 2022
Just after, Olivier Mbaizo held the Union’s shutout with an incredible goalline stop after an Andre Blake save. Mbaizo’s save bumped the excitement in the stadium, culminating in one last goal-scoring chance for the Union before the half.
MBAIZO SAVIN' LIVES OUT HERE ♂️ pic.twitter.com/WxqqCkaEtt— x - PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) October 9, 2022
The game was more relaxed for the first ten minutes of the second half. Philadelphia was able to create good chances early on, but its best came with a penalty kick call for a handball against Toronto 15 minutes into the half. Gazdag scored his 21st goal of the season with ease, and the Union went up 3-0.
Two minutes later, Gazdag had himself a hat trick as he celebrated in front of the River End after certainly clinching a win and first place in the Eastern Conference.
Neither team seemed interested in scoring after Gazdag’s goal, but several players did seem interested in fighting. Bernadeschi and Jose Martinez continued to chirp at each other as they had all game long, and Westberg seemed prepared to fight Gazdag after a collision in the box. However, none of those scenarios resulted in real issues for referee Lucasz Szpala and his crew.
In non-live action, Bedoya made his first appearance in three games when he came on for Jack McGlynn in the 74’ to rousing applause from the Union faithful. Outside of some healthy chances from Carranza, the Union closed the game out easily with no added time. After concerning results from previous matches, Philadelphia was back on top of the East.
Philadelphia will have a bye week in the MLS Cup Playoffs before its first match on either Thursday, October 20, or Sunday, October 23.