The gulf in class between Toronto FC and the Union was obvious from the moment the starting lineups came out, more than an hour before the game kicked off Wednesday night. So it was no surprise that the Union were comprehensively beaten, 3-0, at BMO Field in Toronto.

"They're the most mobile team that we've played in terms of guys comfortable on the ball, moving all over the field and giving you different looks," Union manager Jim Curtin said.

Andre Blake was on the receiving end of all that skill. It was a rude welcome back to the field for the star goalkeeper, as he played for the first time since suffering a gruesome hand injury in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. Blake made three good saves, but also watched the ball go into his net three times.

At least none of the goals conceded were his fault.

Oguchi Onyewu committed the foul that led to Toronto's first goal, and Sebastian Giovinco placed his free kick to the farthest inch of the top right corner. Marcus Epps' lax marking led to the second goal, a Nicolas Hasler header off a corner kick that went in off the crossbar. And the entire Union defense was carved up on the third goal, a beautiful passing sequence capped by Jozy Altidore's calm finish.

The Union's best chances of the game all came after that.

"We've got to hold each other more accountable," Blake said. "We have guys who can play, and we didn't really start playing until the second half."

Curtin pronounced himself "happy with the effort in the second half." But he knew before and after the game that effort alone could never be enough.

"It's going to take a heck of a lot more for anybody in MLS to beat [Toronto] than effort — they're that good right now," Curtin said.

The Union don't have a playmaker like Victor Vazquez, who set up Altidore's goal, when it comes to passing or ball possession. They don't have a striker with Altidore's combination of power and intelligence.

Instead, they have midfielders in Ilsinho and Roland Alberg who are attacking players, but not true playmakers. They have a striker in C.J. Sapong who has power and pace, but not enough help to stop defenses from ganging up on him.

Backup striker Jay Simpson was meant to be a marquee attacking addition, but he has scored just one goal for the Union — and it came back in March. He has played in only 18 of the Union's 30 league games this year, starting four times and averaging a little less than 24 minutes per appearance. Nine of his cameos as a substitute have lasted less than 15 minutes.

The Union sit six points back of the last playoff spot, currently held by the Montreal Impact, with eight games to go. Montreal also has played two fewer games than the Union, and seventh-place Atlanta has played three fewer.

So the goal of a second consecutive trip to the playoffs is slipping away quickly. The Union won't give up hope of a late-season turnaround, and they shouldn't. But Curtin is an honest broker. He knows the stakes, and what he has to work with to overcome them.

Which is why the biggest headline of the night might have been one of the last reflections Curtin offered after the final whistle.

His players, Curtin said, "can see now that there's a whole other level."

They aren't alone.