May 4, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono (25) salutes the fans after their victory against Philadelphia Union at BMO Field. Toronto FC beat Philadelphia Union 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto FC was never expected to prop up the rest of the Eastern Conference for long.
Now the Reds (2-4-1, 7 points) have begun their climb, securing a comfortable 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union (2-4-2, 8 points) to lift themselves out of last place Friday at BMO Field. TFC rode another outstanding performance from Sebastian Giovinco to victory.
Giovinco was key in creating TFC’s opening goal, scored by Victor Vázquez, and netted the team’s second goal before Jay Chapman added a late third to make sure of the points.
Still without any healthy centerbacks, Michael Bradley continued to deputize the middle of defense in an unchanged Toronto lineup. That group struggled to deal with high crosses in its 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire last time out and looked like it might again when Alejandro Bedoya forced an impressive save out of Alex Bono, who met Haris Medunjanin’s corner kick with his head from point-blank range in the 10th minute.
The first half mostly belonged to Toronto, though — in no small part thanks to the advantage offered by having a strong wind blowing towards the Philadelphia net. The gusts often made it difficult for the Union to clear the ball safely into opposition territory.
“It was a really important coin toss, to see which side would have the wind at their back,” TFC coach Greg Vanney admitted. “That was important and it helped us to get some momentum going in the first half. I thought it was pretty controlled game. I thought we tried to play regardless of the circumstances and that is something I want our guys to keep doing.”
Just inside the half-hour mark, the Reds were ahead. A flowing move from left to right ended with Giovinco sliding a pass into the path of Nicolas Hasler, who cut the ball back for Vázquez to squeeze inside Andre Blake’s far post.
“I received the ball and Victor tells me always in training to look, look, look back when I get the ball as he’s always there,” Hasler said. “I’m happy that he was there then and could score.”
Philadelphia replied quickly through another Bedoya chance, but again he was thwarted by Bono. This time, the Union captain ripped a half-volley across goal from Bořek Dočkal’s chipped cross only for the goalkeeper to palm it away at full stretch.
Giovinco and Ager Aketxe both tested Blake from a distance and an Aketxe corner to the back post begged for a final touch, but otherwise Toronto could not turn its control of the run of play into further goal-scoring opportunities.
After the break, Jim Curtin’s team disappointed in its lack of response to falling a goal behind — with the particularly underwhelming David Accam substituted after 64 minutes — and eventually the visitors were punished.
Philadelphia was caught with too many men high up the field on its right side and when Jonathan Osorio joined a counter going the other way, he was not followed. That allowed the Canadian to feed Giovinco into a one-on-one with exposed central defender Jack Elliott.
Giovinco tangled Elliott into tripping over his own feet and fired a left-footed shot past Blake.
“Yeah, obviously beat by a better team tonight,” Curtin said afterwards. “Again, it’s a night where we know we need to be perfect when we are playing against a quality opponent in a tough atmosphere in their building.”
Unlike last time out at BMO Field, when Chicago came from two behind to salvage a point, there was no comeback on the cards. TFC made sure of that when substitute Jordan Hamilton slipped a neat pass into the path of fellow replacement Chapman, who drilled a shot home from 18 yards.
Toronto, recording its second win of the season, pulls to within one point of the Union with a game in hand. TFC is five points out of the last playoff spot ahead of the rest of MLS’ Week 10 fixtures.