PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Union served up a painful reminder Wednesday that Toronto FC, despite a recent rally under interim coach Javier Perez, remains a team in trouble.
Toronto (3-9-5) reverted to its early-season malaise, its five-game unbeaten run (2-0-3) ending in a dismal 3-0 loss.
The porous defence that cost first-year coach Chris Armas his job July 4 after a 1-8-2 start reared its ugly head again Wednesday. Philadelphia (7-4-7) had its way with the visitors, carving open the backline again and again.
TFC, which has given up a league-worst 36 goals, has now conceded three or more goals five times this season. Toronto dropped to 13th from 10th in the 14-team Eastern Conference as it hit the midway point of the season.
"It's another night similar to too many that we've had this year," said captain Michael Bradley. "And if we want to try to claw ourselves back into it, we can't afford many more if any."
With the secondary transfer window closing Thursday, it will be interesting to see if GM Ali Curtis can work some magic amid a tight salary cap to bolster the squad.
Toronto generated almost no offence and its defence was vulnerable all night.
Philadelphia outshot Toronto 14-2 (7-0 in shots on target) and sent in 16 crosses in the first half alone. With a comfortable lead, Philadelphia coach Jim Curtis brought on some of his youngsters in the second half.
The Union ended up with a 17-6 shot advantage (7-1 in shots on target).
"The team didn't come with the right mentality," said Perez, opting not to point fingers. "We are all responsible for that … Like we said in the locker-room, we are together on this. When we succeed, we succeed together. When we fail, we fail together."
Jakob Glesnes, Daniel Gazdag and Sergio Santos scored for Philadelphia, which led 3-0 after 36 minutes and looked faster, more dangerous and more committed than TFC.
The Toronto visit proved to be tonic for a Philadelphia team that had lost its way recently.
The Union, which had won just once in its previous seven outings (1-2-4), snapped a three-game winless streak (0-1-2). It also extended its unbeaten streak to eight matches in all competitions at Subaru Park, where it has not lost since May 1.
The goal spree was welcome for Philadelphia which had scored just six goals in its last six games. During that time, it has registered 84 shots, with just 29 on target.
"The easiest way to put it is that was us tonight. That was the Philadelphia Union at their best," said Union coach Jim Curtin, who had suggested prior to the match that the floodgates would soon open for his offence. "If I'm being critical, could we have scored four or five more goals? Absolutely."
At the other end, Union goalkeeper Andre Blake posted his seventh clean sheet of the season.
Perez said his team came out flat and made it too easy for Philadelphia to move up the ball up the middle. The Spaniard took solace in the fact the scoreline did not get any worse in the second half.
He called it "a step backwards from all the steps forward that we did in the last weeks."
The lone good news for TFC was the return of Nigerian forward Ifunanyachi Achara, who came on in the 60th minute. It was his first action since injuring his knee in training in June 2020. He subsequently underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament in his left knee.
Achara replaced Richie Laryea, who left the field holding the back of his leg.
"He has worked so hard behind the scenes to get himself back in a position where he was able to be ready to step on the field tonight," Bradley said of Achara. "He's a great young man. The way that he injured himself last year broke everyone's heart at the club."
The Union put Toronto under pressure early and went ahead in the 12th minute on Glesnes' header off a Gazdag corner. The ball went off the back of the head of the Norwegian defender as he rose above defender Chris Mavinga for his third of the season — and Philadelphia's sixth off a corner.
It was the league-worst ninth goal conceded by TFC in the first 15 minutes of a game.
Gazdag made it 2-0 with a 33rd-minute penalty after Alex Bono took down Santos after the Toronto defence was opened up yet again. It was the first MLS goal for the Hungarian international.
The third goal was all too easy in the 36th minute as Jose Martinez's long through ball found an unmarked Santos, who beat Bono for his fourth of the season. Bradley suggested later the goal may have been offside.
Toronto failed to convert early in the second half when Blake stopped a Yeferson Soteldo penalty in the 53rd minute. Justice was probably done since Laryea appeared to go initiate the contact, going down after swinging his leg into Jack Elliott, rather than the Philadelphia defender taking him down.
Both teams were coming off 1-1 home draws Sunday, Toronto against Nashville SC and Philadelphia against the Chicago Fire.
Toronto's injury list included Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, forward Dom Dwyer, winger Tsubasa Endoh and Brazilian fullback Auro.
With no Pozuelo to worry about, Philadelphia was able to corral Soteldo on the night. The dangerous Venezuelan has scored or assisted on six of Toronto’s last eight goals (two goals, four assists).
Nick DeLeon came on for Mavinga to open the second half as Toronto switched from a three-man backline to a back four.
"Tonight wasn't a good night for Chris or any of the players on the field," said Perez.
Patrick Mullins, making his 59th appearance for TFC, and Jordan Perruzza came on in the 71st minute as Perez looked to find some offence. Star striker Jozy Altidore, with little service, managed one shot on the night.
Perez made two chances to his starting lineup with Jonathan Osorio and Kemar Lawrence slotting in for Ralph Priso and Justin Morrow.
Philadelphia has now won three of its last four games (3-1-0) against Toronto after going winless in the previous 11 matches (0-9-2) including the playoffs.
Toronto hosts fourth-place New York City FC on Saturday. Perez served as an assistant coach with NYCFC before joining TFC in February.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug, 4, 2021