PREVIEW – With the Supporters Shield having slipped away from Philadelphia Union’s grasp, attention turns to securing the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Their final game of the regular MLS season comes at Subaru Park, to host a Toronto team with nothing to play for.
With an MLS Cup triumph firmly in their sights, preparation could begin with a win against the Canadian visitors. To get Philly’s fans in the mood for Sunday’s showdown, let’s take a look at a trio of classic matches between the two teams.
Memorable Games between the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC
Toronto FC 2-6 Philadelphia Union (Saturday, May 28, 2011)
In only the club’s second full season, Peter Nowak’s Philadelphia Union headed north to clinch a record-breaking win in the club’s infancy. The Union reclaimed possession of the first place in the Eastern Conference. How ironic that they’re looking to hold onto it in 2022.
The significance of this victory was huge, as Philly moved onto 20 points at BMO Field. In their inaugural season, it took until August to reach that points total. And, impressively, it was the ninth time in MLS history that a visiting team had scored six goals in a game.
Having raced into a 3-0 lead, it appeared as though the visitors could make the scoreline anything they wanted. But the hosts didn’t give up, clawing it back to 2-3 courtesy of a Maicon Santos brace before three goals in the final half-hour sealed three points.
It was certainly a surprise, given the visitors had only scored six in their opening nine league matches. Braces for Danny Mwanga and Justin Mapp, alongside Gabriel Farfan’s and Kyle Nakazawa’s first-ever career goals, saw the Americans coast past the Canadian outfit in Ontario.
The Union 1-0 TFC (Saturday, October 5, 2013)
So, at first glance, this scoreline doesn’t appear overly impressive. But the magnitude of the match and the importance of a late winning goal, against an already eliminated Toronto team, is a scenario that Philadelphia Union would love to recreate at the weekend.
TFC headed to Chester, with the home side needing a win to hang onto fifth place within the East and make a push toward the playoffs. Ryan Nelsen’s side hung in until the dying embers of the match, adamant that a share of the spoils was heading their way.
Approaching the fourth of six additional minutes, it appeared as though both sides were heading for a stalemate. However, Antoine Hoppenot had other ideas and charged toward the goal before he was taken down outside the area by TFC defender Doneil Henry.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Up stepped former Manchester United midfielder Kleberson, on loan from Bahia in his native Brazil. The veteran bent a free-kick up and over the wall, and past goalkeeper Joseph Bendik in a flash to seal three pivotal points.
Philly 5-0 The Reds (Saturday, October 24, 2020)
In more recent memory, who could forget the biggest win of the 2020 season? That came against Toronto, en route to winning the Supporters Shield and clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference despite the COVID pandemic threatening to end the season earlier on.
In front of fewer fans, it was a five-star Philly performance. An early Kacper Przybyłko sitter didn’t phase the hosts, as Sergio Santos glanced home from a superb Kai Wagner cross. Mark McKenzie would double the lead after nodding home from Przybyłko’s knockdown at a Jamiro Monteiro corner.
The Dutch-born Cape Verde international made it three with half an hour still to play, thundering home from the edge of the area via the crossbar following an intelligent dummy from current Leeds United midfielder Brenden Aaronson.
Having kicked off proceedings, the Brazilian went on to grab a hat trick. Again, he linked up with Wagner, this time sweeping home a low cross from the German before a late counter saw Aaronson break free with Santos square to ultimately seal the deal.
Despite losing to Toronto – in Canada – just three weeks earlier, the hosts responded with a comprehensive victory which saw them ultimately pip the visitors by three points in the Eastern Conference standings and win their first title.
— X – Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) October 4, 2022
Philadelphia Union plays host to one of the two Canadian sides in the Eastern Conference. The other is waiting to potentially pounce and nick the top spot on the final day. Should they better the Union’s result, CF Montréal will have leapfrogged them at the worst available time. The Union faced TFC earlier this year, losing 2-1 at BMO Field back on April 16.
It would be a massive kick in the teeth, given Philly’s dominance from July onwards. However, credit must be given to L’Impact who have pushed Jim Curtin’s team all the way, continuing to make strides under William Nancy.
— X – Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) October 1, 2022
The East’s top two are amongst the most improved sides in Major League Soccer over the last few years. Youth development, long-term vision, and shrewd recruitment have them towards the top of the table and potential final-day drama. The Union will also want to avoid a game as they had against Charlotte FC on the road last week.
What is for sure is that The Union would settle for a Kleberson-Esque cracker on Sunday, never mind a five-star performance or hitting TFC for six. The game will kick off at 2:55 p.m. ET and it will be televised nationally in Canada on TSN.