Mar 2, 2019; Chester, PA, USA; Toronto FC defender Laurent Ciman (26) and defender Laurent Ciman (26) celebrate a victory against the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
CHESTER, Pa. — The first game of the 2019 Major League Soccer season started slow and then went off the rails fast.
Toronto FC defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-1 at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday, but the score was the last thing on people’s minds as the final whistle blew.
There were two penalties, 29 fouls and countless stoppages that took any type of rhythm out of the contest.
In the end, the Reds left Chester with three points by way of a Michael Bradley brace and a late strike from Nick DeLeon.
“It’s a fantastic three points,” Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney said. “It’s really difficult to get results and wins on the road in this league. Guys came in with a strong mentality, did a great job of defending and protecting our goal, dealing with situations from a defensive standpoint and taking advantage of opportunities we were able to create the other way.”
For the Union, Saturday’s loss can only be seen as a massive disappointment after an offseason filled with promise.
“It’s not the start we wanted at all,” Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said.
The Union controlled a majority of the first half, earning six corner kicks and controlling 54.8 percent of the possession.
However, the home side didn’t create a wealth of significant chances in the final third, which is something TFC did with less time on the ball.
In the 32nd minute, TFC had its first chance to pull ahead, when Union left back Kai Wagner was whistled for a handball as he slid toward the right post in an attempt to block a shot after Andre Blake made a diving save.
Jonathan Osorio stepped to the spot for TFC, but his attempt rolled right to Blake, who guessed correctly by moving to his left.
With time ticking down in first-half stoppage time, Michael Bradley deposited the first goal of the MLS season, tapping in a cross from Auro, who played the ball through the legs of a diving Wagner from the right wing.
“The first one we were able to play wide and Marky Delgado slipped a little ball inside to me, I played Nick DeLeon in that pocket and as I played forward to him, he was then able to on the half turn play with Auro,” Bradley said. “There was some space to move into and it’s not necessarily my first thought always, but when your momentum starts to take your forward on certain plays, then you see them out.”
The goal came a few minutes after Jordan Hamilton wasted a counter by firing a shot wide right of the net from the top of the penalty area.
Bradley struck again in the 62nd minute, in the perfect place at the perfect time to benefit from a rebound created by a Blake save.
The Union finally found some life in the final third in the 71st minute, when Osorio was called for a handball in the top-right part of the box.
Marco Fabian quickly took the ball to the penalty spot after the call was made and a minute later struck the ball into the right side of the net for his first goal in a Union shirt.
The Mexican midfielder almost scored a second goal a few minutes later, but Laurent Ciman got to the ball just in time to clear a shot off the line.
However, that would be the only goal scored by the Union, despite the club using five strikers for the final 15 minutes.