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Recap: Dániel Gazdag hat-trick steers Philadelphia Union to victory over Toronto FC

And that’s a wrap on Toronto FC’s 2022 MLS campaign.

MLS: Toronto FC at Philadelphia Union Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Just like that, Toronto FC’s 2022 season has come to an end.

In a finale that both the players and the fans will look to erase from their memory as soon as possible, the Reds fell to a thumping 4-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park. The hosts thus claimed the Eastern Conference crown, a game that highlighted the obvious gulf between the two sides.

Bob Bradley opted for a change in formation given his extensive list of absentees. Going with a 3-5-2 system, the likes of Luca Petrasso and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty were given the opportunity to impress from the off, while Federico Bernardeschi, who was questionable ahead of the game, started up front alongside Jesús Jiménez.

Subaru Park was rocking right from the start, and in the fourth minute, Dániel Gazdag smashed home a spectacular volley to put the hosts in front. A helpless Quentin Westberg could do nothing about the Hungarian international’s 20th league goal of the season, with the Reds falling behind inside the first 10 minutes for the second time in three games.

After the opening goal, the tempo of the game steadily slowed down, as both Toronto and Philadelphia failed to create any significant scoring opportunities until the 42nd minute.

Gazdag turned provider for Mikael Uhre, who eased past Lukas MacNaughton to slot the ball into the bottom the corner for the Union’s second of the day.

The Reds’ first shot on target of the match came just before halftime, as Mark-Anthony Kaye came oh so close to his first goal for TFC. Olivier Mbaizo’s goal-line clearance ensured the hosts held onto their two-goal cushion heading into the break.

A lack of first half urgency once again hurt TFC, especially given the calibre of their opponent on the day.

For a brief moment, the Reds may have thought they had a route back into the game in the 55th minute when Kaye was hauled down in the area by Matthew Real. Yet, the referee was having none of it and let play resume. Michael Bradley and his teammates were visibly frustrated with the decision.

Then, five minutes later, the hosts were awarded a penalty of their own after Shane O’Neill handled the ball in the box. TFC’s protests were once again ignored by the referee, and Gazdag went on to convert the spot-kick to double his money and put the Union three goals up.

Toronto’s day went from bad to worse shortly after, as Gazdag completed his hat-trick in the 63rd minute. The Hungarian punished the Reds from just inside the penalty area following a poor clearance from MacNaughton at the top of the box.

From there, TFC had no way back into the game, and created next to nothing as the match reached its conclusion.

The 4-0 scoreline condemned the Reds to their fifth straight defeat in MLS. In addition, TFC conceded four goals in four of those five matches.

Following the game, Bob Bradley described the entirety of the season as one of the most challenging of his professional career.

“From start to finish, this was a very, very challenging year,” said Toronto FC’s head coach.

“Challenging when looking at existing situations, challenging to figure out ways to improve the roster, challenging with guys coming in mid-season, challenging with the different injuries...”

Bob Bradley then went on to say that he wished he would have seen more of Bradley, Kaye and Osorio playing together in a midfield three.

Westberg described similar sentiments to Bob in his post-game interview.

“As athletes, we want to win. As athletes, we want to play teams off the field. We want to play well, we want to build. When facing all these challenges, stepping up, and showing up everyday when everything is not going your way, that takes a toll on people.”

With the 2022 season officially in the books, it is now time for the club to get to work ahead of the new year.