The penultimate match for the Union this preseason offered a marquee matchup between two of Major League Soccer’s biggest stars in Philadelphia’s Maurice Edu and Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley.
However, it was a collective team front on both sides that battled to a scoreless draw. For the Union it was a stingy defensive presence and solid goalkeeping from Zac MacMath – who made a great save in the 61st minute on Toronto’s Andrew Weideman after a through ball from Bradley put him in the clear.
In the waning moments of the match, the Union also had a couple of great chances from second half substitute Leo Fernandes. Both arrived in the 89th minute, as Fernandes found two clear chances in front of goal against TFC goalkeeping newcomer Julio Cesar, but Cesar was up to the task on both.
“Just like in most of these preseason games you see some very good things, and those moments you have to be able to build on and be able to sustain those positives over longer periods of time,” Union manager John Hackworth said postgame. “Clearly, we have some things we still need to improve on but I thought today we created enough chances to easily put one or two in the back of the net today.”
Even with his apparent bag of creativity, TFC was never able to fully break down the Union collective, while on the flip side quick passing and movement from the likes of offseason acquisitions Cristian Maidana and Vincent Noguiera provided the Union with its own chances on frame. The final stat sheet showed eight shots, three that forced saves from Cesar.
Defensively, Union newcomer Austin Berry debuted in the 65th minute and played solid in the back. Along with MacMath, Berry helped keep shape and dictated the movements of the back line. But it was MacMath who looked strong in this one and was a vocal presence – a true sign of his continual maturity, says Hackworth.
“For me, I listen to the little things that he is saying to defenders, the team and the way he’s communicating and I think that’s a sign of maturity and growth on his part,” Hackworth said of his keeper. “He kept us in the game today and that was good, I was impressed with his performance.”
The Union will play its final match this Saturday in the Disney Classic before flying back to Philadelphia later that night to prepare for next Saturday’s season opener in Portland (10:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). For the players it’s about using this final week to tweak.
“There are minor things we need to work on and we will work on them and get them right before Portland. Everyone in this locker room wants to make sure we get out on the right foot. We owe it to ourselves for all the hard work we’ve been putting in during preseason. And to our fans, who want to see us come back to Philly after that match with a win.”
Philadelphia Union 0, Toronto FC 0
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1:00 p.m.
ESPN Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Fla.
TFC: Morgan (caution) 55’
PHI: Okugo (caution) 63’
PHI: Carroll (caution) 71’
UNION STARTING 11
MacMath, Fabinho, Wheeler (Berry 65’), Okugo, Williams (Gaddis 19’), Carroll, Edu, Maidana (Cruz 67’), Nogueira, Le Toux (Fernandes 74’), McInerney
TORONTO FC STARTING 11
Cesar, Morrow (Morgan 45’), Henry, Caldwell, Hagglund, Rey (Aparicio 84’), Osorio, Bradley, Jackson (Bekker 80’), DeRosario (Lambe 70’), Weideman