Philadelphia Union draw MLS Eastern Conference leader Toronto FC
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Sousa/USA Today

Philadelphia Union draw MLS Eastern Conference leader Toronto FC

Philadelphia Union took on a Sebastian Giovinco-less Toronto FC side and came away with a road point to keep pace in the MLS Eastern Conference.

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Philadelphia Union traveled north of the border on Saturday afternoon to BMO Field to take on Toronto FC and came away with crucial road point in a 1-1 draw.

Giovinco out, Edu in for Toronto and the Union 

When the pregame lineups were released, there were two slight surprises. Major League Soccer MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco was not in Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney’s 18, which allowed Jordan Hamilton to make his second consecutive start alongside Jozy Altidore at forward.

On the other side of the pitch, Maurice Edu made his first appearance in the 18 for Philadelphia on the season as he recovers from a tibia stress fracture. He did not make an appearance in the game.

Philadelphia came out with a purpose in the first half with intense offensive pressure and solid defensive prowess. On the defensive side, Philadelphia shut down Toronto’s talented offense by not allowing a single shot in the first half. This is in stark contrast to the Union’s last match with Toronto, where Toronto scored three first half goals in a 3-1 win.

Alejandro Bedoya scores first MLS goal - Toronto FC

Philadelphia’s offense in the first 45 minutes put immense pressure on Clint Irwin to make difficult saves from close range. Philadelphia’s pressure would pay off half way through the first half courtesy of Alejandro Bedoya. In the 25th minute, Bedoya executed a top quality chip from 20 yards away over Irwin to give the Union the 1-0 road lead.

Despite the poor first half performance, Toronto would will themselves back into the game in the second half. Toronto controlled the pace in the second half and managed to put shots on net that eluded them in the first half.

Toronto's improved play pays off

The payoff for the vastly improved play in the second half came in the 70th minute. In the 70th minute, Jonathan Osorio found Justin Morrow, whom managed to sneak the ball past Andre Blake from a tight angle to level the score at one.

Toronto would have multiple opportunities to take all three points on the day, but Altidore was unable to convert a late opportunity in the 87th minute when the ball bounced around in the Philadelphia box.

Penalty kick controversy late in match

There was some controversy in second half stoppage time as Altidore appeared to be fouled inside the Philadelphia box by CJ Sapong, but referee Ismail Elfath saw nothing in the challenge in the face of pleading from Toronto. Sapong appeared to have gotten away with a clear foul in the box, which would have awarded Toronto a penalty kick very late in the match. Elfath blew the whistle after three minutes of stoppage time with thescore still level at 1-1.

Where do both teams go from here?

With the draw, Philadelphia will continue to occupy fourth place in the MLS Eastern Conference for another week. Jim Curtin’s side will be back in action next Saturday night with another crucial Eastern Conference match against Interstate-95 rivals, New York Red Bulls.

With the point earned, Toronto will move back into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with New York City FC. Toronto does have a game in hand on NYCFC however. Toronto has two Eastern Conference matches next week, both at home at BMO Field. On Wednesday September 28th, Toronto faces Orlando City and, on Saturday October 1st, D.C. United will make the trek to Toronto. 

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