CHESTER, Pa. — A top-of-the-table showdown turned into a lopsided loss Saturday for an understrength Toronto FC that saw its nine-game undefeated run snapped in a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Philadelphia Union.
It was one-way traffic all night long, a night to forget for a Toronto franchise used to being the hammer rather than the nail. Philadelphia took advantage of TFC's shambolic defending and non-existent attack, bullying a team that had been on a 7-0-2 run.
It was a costly defeat, given a win would have put TFC six points ahead of its nearest challenger. Instead, the Union moved into first place in both the league and Eastern Conference on goal difference over Toronto with the two teams at 12-3-5.
Toronto had gone unbeaten since suffering a pair of losses Sept. 1 and 5, against Montreal and Vancouver respectively.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney called it a "hard lesson," the kind of performance he had not see for "a long, long time."
"What went wrong? It was wrong from start to finish," he said. "We weren't close to them the entire night, really...We couldn't put passes together and they were just at a different speed than we were on the night, that's for sure."
The decision matched Philadelphia's largest margin of victory and Toronto's largest margin of defeat in MLS play, according to Opta. TFC lost 6-0 to the Montreal Impact in a Canadian Championship semifinal second-match in 2013.
Philadelphia outshot Toronto 27-3 (12-1 in shots on target) and had 11 corners to TFC's three.
"There's no time to feel sorry for ourselves and nobody's panicking, I can promise you that," said captain Michael Bradley, who marked his 200th career MLS start.
Sergio Santos scored three goals, Mark McKenzie and Jamiro Monteiro added singles with Kacper Przybylko contributed three assists for a rampant Philadelphia side. The margin of victory could have been higher had it not been for some fine saves by overworked Toronto 'keeeper Quentin Westberg.
"The way that we play represents, I think, (Philadelphia) in a lot of ways," said Union coach Jim Curtin "We don't fear anyone. We'll go toe to toe with any superstars and our guys stick together and really fight for each other."
It marked the first time Toronto had given up five goals since a 5-1 loss to Houston in April 2018. That day, Toronto fielded a second-string lineup in advance of a CONCACAF Champions League game.
Vanney and Bradley were singing off the same hymn sheet after the game, saying it was a reminder for some of the intensity of play in the run-up to the post-season and the playoffs themselves.
Bradley, who came off the bench last week in his return from a knee injury, made his first start since Sept. 1. Fullback Justin Morrow, who had missed the last four matches with a calf strain, returned to action off the bench.
But Vanney had plenty of other injury concerns including designated player Pablo Piatti who sat out with calf tightness.
Centre back Chris Mavinga and striker Ayo Akinola missed their second straight game with hamstring issues. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who left last week's 1-0 win over Atlanta after just 20 minutes with a hamstring injury, did not dress.
Star forward Jozy Altidore, another Toronto DP, is a long-term casualty with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.
"Yeah, we were missing some guys but guys had the opportunity to step in and try to show that this time of year they might be able to help us" said Vanney.
Akinola could be back for Wednesday's game against New York City FC. Osorio is being pencilled in for either NYFC or next weekend's game against Inter Miami, TFC's penultimate regular season match. Vanney is awaiting a final verdict on Piatti from club doctors.
Richie Laryea, Nick DeLeon and Gallardo came into the starting 11. Gallardo had played just 62 minutes in two substitute appearances since March 7, when he started the second game of the season.
The Venezuelan lasted just 35 minutes before Vanney brought on Patrick Mullins in a bid to find someone to boost an impotent attack
Philadelphia ran its undefeated streak to five (4-0-1) since a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Oct 3 in East Hartford. The Union also improved to 7-0-0 in league play this season at Subaru Park, which has opened its door with local authorities allowing 15 per cent capacity or approximately 2,775 spectators.
"They're making a lot of noise, really pushing the players on," said Curtin.
Philadelphia wasted little time taking it to a Toronto lineup missing some big names through injury.
The Union outshot Toronto 15-1 (6-0 in shots on target) in the first half alone, with 60 per cent possession and nine corners to TFCs one.
The Union went ahead in the 27th minute on a rapid-fire counter attack after Brazilian fullback Auro and Gallardo both lost possession for Toronto in the Philadelphia end. Jose Martinez swept the ball wide to Kai Wagner, who made a run down the left flank and floated in a perfect cross that Santos headed in as defender Omar Gonzalez lunged in vain at the ball.
The Union doubled the lead off a corner in the 33rd minute, taking advantage of some dreadful defending. Monteiro's corner found Przybylko alone beyond the back post and he floated a header to an unmarked McKenzie to head it in from close range as a half-dozen defenders looked on.
Monteiro made it 3-0 in the 56th minute with a booming shot off that cracked in off the cross bar after a giveaway by Liam Fraser. Santos scored his second on the night in the 63rd minute, knocking in a cross from Wagner with little opposition from Toronto. A dummy run by Brenden Aaronson added some sizzle to the goal.
Santos' hat trick came in the 68th minute, with the unmarked Brazilian knocking in an Aaronson cross over Westberg. It raised Santos' season goals total to seven
Alejandro Pozuelo played up front with Tsubasa Endoh, Gallardo and DeLeon trying to offer support. But the Toronto attack offered nothing and Pozuelo, usually a game-changer, was rarely seen.
Morrow and Fraser replaced Auro and Marky Delgado at halftime.
Midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who turned 16 on June 16, became the youngest player to appear for TFC when he came in the 72nd minute -- four minutes after Santos exited to applause. Raph Priso, an 18-year-old midfielder just signed as a homegrown player, also made his Toronto debut in the 64th minute.
Coming into the contest, Toronto had lost just two of 29 regular-season games (16-2-11) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2020.
The Canadian Press