On Saturday, the Philadelphia Union closed out their 2016 preseason with a 1-0 win over Toronto FC. With the win, the Union finished the 2016 Suncoast Invitational with an undefeated record. The win also represents the Union’s third straight shutout this preseason.
Newly signed Ilsinho nearly opened the scoring 34 seconds into the game, when he intercepted an errant pass by Toronto’s defense. The former Shakhtar Donetsk player sent his shot past Toronto goalkeeper Clint Irwin, but the ball hit the far post and deflected out.
After being red carded on Wednesday night 44 minutes into the match, the Brazilian international had a bounce back performance on Saturday as he helped provide solid service for the Union offense.
Giovinco Continues to Puzzle Opposing Defenses
The 2015 Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player, Sebastian Giovinco, provided his usual level of quality on Saturday. His ability to slice through MLS defenses was on display as he caused problems for the Union defense most of the day. In one of a few cases on the day, the Atomic Ant forced a miraculous save by Union goalkeeper Andre Blake on a shot earmarked for the top corner in the 18th minute.
At the halftime whistle, Philadelphia piled up four shots, with one on net, as compared to Toronto’s three shots with two on target.
Near the15 minute mark in the second half, Union forward CJ Sapong found the tie-breaking goal. Sapong intercepted a pass by the Toronto defense and sprinted in on goal with a breakaway. Sapong, who had his contract extended this offseason, hit a low driving shot past a diving Clint Irwin for the decisive goal and the 1-0 win.
What to Takeaway From This Last Preseason Game?
As the Blue and Gold’s regular season looms in about a week, there are a few key takeaways from this game. Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Curtin curiously only used one sub during this game when he subbed Sebastien Le Toux in for Ilsinho in the 75th minute of the game. Taking this into account, Curtin could have tipped his hand as to who could be starting on March 6th in the opener of the season. However, there are some possibly changes that could occur between today's lineup and the lineup against FC Dallas on March 6th.
One possibility could be Leo Fernandes being subbed out for Tranquilo Barnetta. With Maurice Edu out for the opener, Brian Carroll could get the start. Carroll gives Curtin and Philadelphia a true defensive midfielder, which will give Vincent Nogueira more room to roam the midfield in the double pivot.
As seen throughout the preseason, the defense has started to gel a little more every game. With the possibility of two rookies starting in the home opener, it will still take time before each member of the back four as well as Blake are completely comfortable playing alongside each other.
With the preseason over, Philadelphia will start their season on the road in Dallas on March 6th when they take on FC Dallas. Also on the road Toronto travels to Red Bull Arena when they face New York Red Bulls on March 6th as well.