Philadelphia Union 0 – 1 Toronto FC

www.philadelphiaunion.com

Philadelphia Union  0-1  Toronto FC

Phil Tor

One may argue on the quality of soccer of two teams that are struggling to find their form.  But one thing was found for sure in this game: a lot of heart on both sides of the pitch.

 

May 3, 2015

I must admit, that when comes to soccer, I always love to watch the struggling teams.  There is something about the bottom teams that brings out the spirit, the hunger to fight and prove something.  I have this belief that a real glorious soccer team is one that has built itself through the tough times and struggles.

By now you probably realize I was really looking forward to watch two teams that nowadays have so much to prove: hosts Philadelphia Union, ranked 9 in the Eastern Conference table, with only 1 win this season (against my NYCFC, but let’s not digress here…), conceded 17 goals – more than any MLS team this season.  Add to the trouble the recent arrest and suspension of the Union’s forward CJ Sapong.

And on the opposing side, Toronto FC, ranked 7 on the table, with 11 goals against, and having not played at home for the past 7 games in a row – as their home grounds BMO field is still undergoing renovation.

So, a lot should be going on tonight, with two teams that have been having a lot on their mind, trying to find their form.  And so the game begins…

Well, not really…the Union is up to a bad start, when things go from bad to worse on the 2’ minute of the game.  Michael Lahoud seems to have a thigh injury, and is replaced by Richie Marquez.

Players seem to be slipping all over the place on the first few minutes of the game.  I am not sure if this is due to wrong boots, or perhaps the grounds man at PPL Park decided to water the lawn up until a few minutes before kick off?

Have I said already that struggling teams are usually hungry and thus are interesting to watch? Well so far this game proves my point.  Unlike a few recent MLS games I have watched, this game is exciting.  From the first few minutes, the game seems to be open, with a fast, impressive tempo.  Both sides seem determined to win this thing, and a goal, or better yet goals, just seems like a matter of time.

Toronto appears to have the upper hand to start with, which doesn’t come as surprise.  With the duo Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore in mid field and front respectively, both US internationals that played together for many years, and appear to have chemistry on and off the pitch.  Then you have a new partnership that seems to be even more exciting: Altidore is now seems to be forming a bond with his partner on the front position – Italian International Sebastian Giovinco.  Giovinco, who played in his past for Juventus, Parma and Italy’s International team is a small, quick, technical player – no wonder he earned the nickname “Atomic Ant”!

And indeed, the Atomic Ant seems to be running around and creating havoc in Unions danger zones.  Giovinco moves in enormous speed, and seems to be capturing positions behind Philadelphia’s back 4.  Luckily for Philly, even his Toronto teammates don’t manage to keep up with Giovinco’s speed.  This enables Union’s keeper John McCarthy to make a pretty impressive save on the 10’ minute, when Giovinco creates panic in the Union’s back 4 and almost scores from behind the last defender.

McCarthy then came through again for the Union on 22’ minute, with yet another brilliant save against wide-open Robbie Findley.

Philadelphia did reply, with an attack and header by Venezuelan Fernando Aristeguieta (26’), but the ball went a bit too high.

As the first half goes by, it becomes clear that Toronto are the stronger team today, and a goal is eminent and is just a matter of time. And, on the 31’ minute Giovinco again gets quickly with the ball to behind Philly’s defense, but again cannot finish with a goal.  As he just reaches the box on his own with no support or teammates to pass to, Giovinco can’t capitalize on so many opportunities he is creating.  Altidore must pick up the pace and assume position further afield next to Giovinco.

The goal did come eventually though, on the 34’ minute.  A brilliant goal by no other than Sebastian Giovinco, who decided to go for the net from a distant free kick of 30 yards.  Nobody expected the Ant to attempt a goal from such a distance, not McCarthy either.  A powerful, accurate shot direct into Philadelphia’s net.  McCarthy did jump towards the ball in an attempt to save, but it was too late.  1-0 to Toronto.  By the silence that followed this fantastic goal, one would assume that are not many Toronto supporters in the crowd…

On stoppage time (45:10’), Philadelphia came up with yet another chance to score when Argentinian Christian Maidana tries to settle the ball for a shot, but again just a tad bit too high, and yet again Toronto is saved by the woodwork.

 

The second half started with no changes to the squads.  Toronto keeper Chris Konopka came out of the tunnel smiling, probably because of the close-but-no-goal on the last seconds of the first half.  Although Konopka seems to be throwing away the credit for a clean sheet on the first half, but make mistakes time and time again, and being very lucky to be saved by the woodwork (again…).

The goalkeeper that does deserve a lot of credit in this match is Philly’s McCarthy, who works hard and despite going down and his head (56’), still gets up and remains in the game.  Just to save 10 minutes later (66’) a would-be own-goal by defender Ethan White.

Luck still remains on Toronto’s side in a big way, with Giovinco blatantly dives in front of the Union’s box in an attempt to pick a foul (72’).  He should have received for that at least a yellow card, but gets away with nothing.  Come on man!! So much talent and skill came from you in this game, is this really needed??!!

And lady luck continues to support Toronto FC this evening, with a fantastic finish (again header) by Fernando Aristeguieta (78’), that got the ball into the back of the net, but for some unexplained reason was then denied a goal for an offside (which I didn’t see, despite replaying the game footage again and again).

6 minutes were added to stoppage time, with Philadelphia Union trying to create chances, and Toronto FC trying to play the clock and stretch time as expected.

 

So, would I sum up this game? Firstly a flowing, open game with good tempo and two teams that played with great tempo and determination – it was a very enjoyable and interesting game to watch.

Although Philadelphia should be commended for the effort and determination – as things are certainly starting to look a lot better for the Union – it still fell short of the cutting edge and finesse that Atomic Ant Giovinco gives Toronto FC.  On an individual level however, John McCarthy should be commended for great saves and diligence.  I’m going to watch out for him in the near future as Philly finds its form.