After a few stagnant games in recent weeks, the Union’s attack erupted Wednesday night at Subaru Park to power a 3-0 win over Toronto FC. Jakob Glesnes opened the scoring in the 12th minute, Dániel Gazdag got his first Union goal with a penalty kick in the 33rd, and Sergio Santos struck on a breakaway in the 36th.
Here are some observations on the game.
Finally scoring first
The Union registered the game’s first five shots in its first 12 minutes, and the fifth was the first to find the net. Glesnes leapt high to power home a header off a well-served Gazdag corner kick. It was the first time since the Union’s last win, July 17 vs. D.C. United, that they scored first in a game – and just the second time they’ve opened the scoring since the end of June. Since their last win, the Union had lost to Orlando and tied Miami and Chicago.
Wagner’s an All-Star
Kai Wagner earned his first MLS All-Star Game invitation a few hours before Wednesday’s kickoff, then showed why he earned it. He registered 7 recoveries, 2 aerial duels won, 2 interceptions, 1 block, 1 shot, and 52-of-61 passing. And he added a 47th-minute yellow card for good measure.
The 24-year-old (yes, he’s still that young) German has been one of the league’s best left backs since he arrived here two years ago. Had there been an All-Star Game last year, he might have made it.
But as things are, he’s in line to potentially be the starting left back in one of the most-anticipated All-Star Games in years: the first time a Mexican league all-star team will be the opposition. Fittingly, Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium will host the spectacle in prime time on Aug. 28 (9 p.m., FS1 and Univision 65).
Along with the voting done by fans, media and players, MLS headquarters is due some credit for changing the way defenders earn All-Star selections. This year’s balloting required the selection of a left back, a right back, and centerbacks, not just defenders of any kind. Here’s hoping that stays the case in the future.
Wagner got a special bonus when he received the news: His wife brought their son on to the Union’s practice field wearing an All-Star Game jersey with Kai’s name and number. The video of the moment that the Union posted on their social media feeds was great.
It’s been said enough times here by now that Santos’ lack of durability is a problem. But when he’s on his game, his mix of speed and skill on the ball are unmatched by any of his teammates. We saw that in the first half when he repeatedly beat Toronto players off the dribble and on the breakaway, including the game’s third goal.
Santos also helped create the second with a defense-breaking run in the 31st. It ended with him being clipped Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono near the 6-yard line, for which referee Ted Unkel promptly blew his whistle.
Gazdag stepped up to take it, and he was right to do so. He made no mistake with a powerful shot.
Ball don’t lie
It didn’t end up mattering, but let the record show that when Jack Elliott was whistled for a penalty kick in the 51st minute, he was kicked in the leg by the player he was accused of fouling, Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio.
The video replay booth took a good look at the contact and decided it was still obstruction by Elliott. But the soccer gods had the final say, as Andre Blake stopped a rather poor shot by Toronto’s new star playmaker Yeferson Soteldo.
On the same day his older brother Brenden scored the game-winning goal in Red Bull Salzburg’s preseason win over Barcelona, Paxten Aaronson got his first major playing time in MLS. He replaced Kacper Przybylko in the 74th minute. Though it was his third time making the field as a pro, it was the first when he entered before second-half stoppage time.