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Philadelphia Union 2-2 Toronto FC: Reds draw an absolute mess of a game

TFC are still yet to find any kind of rhythm but at least got a couple of goals in Pennsylvania.

MLS: Toronto FC at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC claimed their second point of the season by drawing 2-2 against the Philadelphia Union in an ugly, back-and-forth game at Talen Energy Stadium.

Key points

  • After an awful first half, Toronto equalized on the stroke of half-time through a Jozy Altidore penalty
  • Sebastian Giovinco was substituted just before the break after being caught by Oguchi Onyewu, but word is the Italian’s injury is not serious
  • Toronto improved in the second half and took the lead through Justin Morrow off a quick Michael Bradley free-kick
  • The game remained messy and the Reds’ defence imperfect, however, and their lead lasted just two minutes before CJ Sapong made it 2-2

The first half

Toronto started woefully, struggling to get out of their own half and anywhere near the Union penalty area as Philly pressed them into turnovers and pinned back their wing-backs with aggressive wide play.

Pretty quickly, it was apparent that Greg Vanney’s two changes to the lineup - the insertion of Victor Vazquez and Tsubasa Endoh - were not going to be seamless. The first chance of the game came when Vazquez was dispossessed in midfield and Alejandro Bedoya aimed a cross from the right in Endoh’s direction, with Chris Pontius getting in front of the Japanese but not generating enough power on his header.

Philadelphia were under clear instruction to pump high balls in the 5’ 7” Endoh’s direction, and they were pretty quickly rewarded. Four minutes after that first chance, Haris Medunjanin lofted a left-footed pass towards Pontius and he nodded the ball back across goal for Jay Simpson to score his first goal in MLS with a stooped header.

The fact the Reds were playing against the wind in the first half will not have helped their general struggle to build dangerous moves upfield, and they were lucky their predicament did not get worse when Nick Hagglund was caught out by a quick free-kick. The defender lost track of Fabian Herbers and attempted to pull him back just outside the box to prevent him reaching the ball only for the linesman to wrong call it inside and signal for a penalty.

Bedoya beat Irwin but not the crossbar, and those of a Toronto inclination will feel justice was done.

When Sebastian Giovinco then went down after being clipped in the knee by the sizeable Oguchi Onyewu and was immediately substituted, Vanney will have been ready to discard the first half as a complete write-off.

But with the cameras still on a hobbling Giovinco, Michael Bradley chipped a free-kick into the box and the otherwise excellent Derrick Jones pulled down Jozy Altidore, with the American dusting himself down to convert the penalty.

Second half

The second half was better, though the first was so bad it would be difficult for that not to have been the case. Toronto constructed more coherent attacking moves, getting Endoh and Justin Morrow into the action higher up the pitch down the flanks.

One such move down the right saw Endoh and Vazquez combine to release Armando Cooper between the lines. Cooper then slid a pass through to Altidore to leave him one-on-one with Andre Blake, but the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year made an excellent save.

The Reds still weren’t defending properly and Pontius should have done better after being allowed to cut across the edge of the penalty area on his right foot, with Clint Irwin pushing the first shot to safety before also stopping a rebound effort that was flagged for offside anyway.

Then Toronto found themselves in the lead thanks to one of the most straightforward goals they will score this season. Much in the same way as Hagglund had been caught on the penalty, Bradley lobbed a quick free-kick to Morrow and after taking a touch to compose himself, the left-back slid a low shot under Blake.

It felt bizarre that TFC might actually have a chance of winning the game, and they were brought back down to earth pretty instantly. More dreadful defending saw Herbers wander across the pitch unaccompanied, with Bradley really not doing enough to close him down, and the winger picked out CJ Sapong with a delicate through ball. Sapong rounded Irwin to tie it up.

What’s next?

Toronto will continue the search for their first win of the season back in Canada away to the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday.