TORONTO - When the halftime whistle blew at BMO Field, the Union appeared to be on the way toward by far their most impressive win of the season.
By the end of the game, the Union had to settle for just their most entertaining win - and the most goals ever scored in a game in the club's relatively short history.
After scoring three goals in the first half - including two in the first 11 minutes - the Union gave up two goals early in the second half, then scored three more in the last half hour in a 6-2 win over Toronto FC.
In just the second minute, Gabriel Farfan got open in the middle of the 18-yard box, and positioned himself well to chest down a cross from Jordan Harvey. Farfan settled the ball, shook off Toronto defender Dan Gargan - a Philadelphia native - and calmly fired past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The Union doubled their lead in the 11th minute thanks in part to some opportunistic defending. Justin Mapp picked off a weak clearance from Ty Harden near midfield, but lost control of the ball. It bounced to Kyle Nakazawa, who slid to beat Julian de Guzman to the ball and redirect it back into Mapp's path. Mapp ran forward to about 23 yards from goal, then ripped a shot that buzzed along the grass and past a diving Frei.
Toronto had relatively few good chances to score in the first half. Arguably the best came in the 35th minute, when diminutive Ecuadorian midfielder Joao Plata used some crafty dribbling to set up Richard Eckersley for an open shot from 20 yards out. Eckersley hit the ball hard, but just over Faryd Mondragón's crossbar.
In the 41st minute, Toronto's Maicon Santos unleashed a speculative effort from nearly 30 yards out on the right wing that hit the outside of Mondragón's net. Mondragón went down injured for a moment, holding his right leg. But he got up and continued to play, seemingly unaffected by whatever had ailed him.
The Union made it 3-0 in the 45th minute with a pretty passing sequence. Sebastien Le Toux and Mapp played a give-and-go on the left flank, then Le Toux passed to Danny Mwanga in a central position near the top of the 18-yard box. Mwanga backheeled the ball into the path of an onrushing Kyle Nakazawa for an easy finish.
Le Toux nearly made it 4-0 in stoppage time, but he shot over the crossbar from close range. Nonetheless, the three-goal haul was the Union's biggest yet of the season, and the first time that the Union scored three times in a half since June 27th of last year.
Toronto got the second half off to a lively start, as Maicon Santos snuck behind Danny Califf and forced Mondragón to make a big save having come well off his line.
Moments later, Frei made a big save of his own, denying Mwanga a goal in a one-on-one breakaway.
Toronto finally got on the scoreboard in the 50th minute. Maicon Santos led a breakaway off a long through ball from Danleigh Borman, and Mondragón came well outside of the 18-yard box to try to break up the play. Santos easily got around Mondragón and slotted the ball into the empty net.
That got the announced crowd of 20,122 - which included a sizeable delegation of traveling Union fans - to finally wake up. Prior to that point, the only real noise the home fans had made was a chorus of boos as their team left the field at halftime.
Toronto continued to surge forward, with halftime substitute Javier Martina leading the attack on the right flank. But the Union also had plenty of space to work with, in part because Martina had replaced defensive midfield stalwart Julian de Guzman.
Mondragón made up for his earlier gaffe to some degree in the 55th minute, diving low to stop a hard shot from Plata after Plata pounced on a loose ball just outside the 18-yard box.
Toronto made it 3-2 in the 59th minute after a stunning gaffe by Sebastien Le Toux. Stuck deep in his own half of the field, Le Toux directly to the feet of Borman, who sent a cross low through the 18-yard box and onto the foot of a wide open Maicon Santos.
But the Union answered right away. In the 62nd minute, Mapp intercepted another poor Toronto clearance, raced down the left flank and blasted a ferocious shot past Frei from 20 yards to make it 4-2.
Mondragón nearly scored directly from a long goal kick in the 65th minute. The ball bounced high over the head of Frei, but he was able to race back to his net and scoop up the ball just before it went over the goal line.
Mwanga finally put the game out of reach in the 72nd minute, receiving a Le Toux corner kick and volleying it into the from seven yards out. Mwanga finished off the scoring in the 89th minute with an easy finish of a setup pass from Mapp.
Here are the video highlights from the game. Be sure to pick up a copy of Sunday's Inquirer for my game story with quotes from the Union locker room.