Conor Casey's goal lifts Union past Toronto FC, 1-0
Conor Casey scored the game's only goal as the Union beat Toronto FC, 1-0, at PPL Park on Wednesday night.
THE HOME stretch of a marathon of an MLS season looms, and the Eastern Conference playoff picture remains anything but clear.
Continuing its recent surge under interim manager Jim Curtin, the Union muddled the standings even further with a 1-0 victory against Michael Bradley and Toronto FC last night at PPL Park. The three points propelled Philadelphia (8-9-9) into a three-way tie for fourth place in the 10-team conference with eight games left to play.
"This game tonight was exactly what a playoff game looks like," said Curtin, who played eight seasons in MLS. "That's what it felt like."
It was a hard-fought win, the game's lone and decisive goal coming off the foot of Conor Casey. The red hot Sebastien Le Toux helped create the score, making a great run down the right sideline and crossing the ball to Casey in front of the goal.
Casey's seventh goal of the season doubled as Le Toux's sixth assist.
Le Toux also has scored a team-best 11 goals this season.
"He was dangerous. He's confident, and when Seba's confident he is as tough as anyone to cover," Curtin said. "I'll be the one to start the best 11 conversation with him . . . He's hot right now at the right time. If he continues in the form that he's in he has to be in the discussion for best 11 of our league, which is probably the highest honor you can get. He's playing that well."
Moments after Casey's goal, Zac MacMath made one of his three saves to preserve the shutout, the Union's first since May 31 on the road against Chivas USA. Maurice Edu, Ethan White, Raymon Gaddis and Sheanon Williams made for a formidable defense in holding the opposition off the scoreboard.
"It's big time," MacMath said. "Obviously going into this final stretch this defense needs some solidarity and some confidence and hopefully we can continue to put together defensive efforts like we did tonight."
Since Curtin took over for John Hackworth on June 10, the Union is 5-2-3 in league competition.
Yesterday's triumph was a testament to the depth of the roster. The club was without center back Carlos Valdes, recently acquired goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi and midfielder Michael Lahoud, each of whom are representing their countries in international competition.
"Guys are coming in and doing the job," forward Andrew Wenger said. "It's more about the team than anything right now and that's the goal. Everyone's playing well and anyone can slide anywhere."
Midfielder Vincent Nogueira also missed the match because of a right groin strain sustained in training. Curtin said an MRI was negative and he does not believe the injury will keep Nogueira out long-term. At the same time, though, the manager said he was not yet sure of the player's status for Saturday.
Though missing three starters in Valdes, M'Bolhi and Nogueira, Philadelphia did retain the services of Cristian Maidana. The playmaking midfielder hadn't played in league competition since July 16 because of a hamstring injury. Maidana, who logged 71 minutes last night, kick-started the play that led to the goal.
The first half was scoreless but not lacking action, the Union failing to capitalize on several opportunities. It took six corner kicks and had two shots on goal, while Toronto (9-10-6) recorded five shots on goal.
Yesterday's game was Toronto's first under new coach Greg Vanney. His predecessor, Ryan Nelsen, was fired Sunday. TFC played the final 14-plus minutes shorthanded after Ashtone Morgan pulled down Le Toux from behind on a breakaway.
Toronto is one of the clubs Philadelphia pulled into a tie with in the standings, the other being Columbus. The second stanza of the home and home between these teams is Saturday at 2 p.m. at BMO Field in Toronto.
"We can't just split with them," Curtin said. "That kind of gets us nowhere, if we just split three and three. We need to go to Toronto now and take points there."