Sergio Santos’ hat trick and Jamiro Monteiro’s long-range golazo helped ease Philadelphia Union into first place and to the top of the Supporters’ Shield race as they rocked Toronto FC 5-0 Saturday night.
The Union were dominant throughout and unlucky to go ahead before Santos nodded in a beautiful early cross from Kai Wagner in the 27th minute.
Jim Curtin started what has been his preferred lineup this season — a 4-4-2 diamond with Jose Martinez at the base and Brenden Aaronson at the tip. Jakob Glesnes and Mark McKenzie anchored the back line in front of MVP candidate Andre Blake while Kacper Przybylko and Santos partnered up top.
TFC was missing Jozy Altidore, Ayo Akinola, and Jonathan Osorio to injury, but the true gap between the teams was one of desire.
The Union were always in motion in attack and snapped at the visitors’ ankles defense. Jamiro Monteiro’s early yellow card may have spelled caution in a different match, but on Saturday it merely started a jawing match between the Union DP and Michael Bradley that lit a fire under Philly’s diminutive playmaker.
Perhaps the best marker of things to come, at least for long-time Union fans, was Ray Gaddi’s fourth minute cut inside and shot across goal. When Gaddis has his tail up in the attacking third, it’s a good bet others will as well.
Two minutes after the long-time right back threatened, Przybylko was released behind the line by Monteiro’s gorgeous floated pass. The striker headed wide but it was a clear sign that the Union knew how to slip TFC’s jagged back four.
In the 19th minute, McKenzie saw the ball bounce to him awkwardly off a corner and slugged a shot wide of the mark. Then Monteiro missed his own open header off a beautiful pick out by Ale Bedoya.
Monteiro returned the favor with a delicious front-post corner that Bedoya flicked to the back post, only to see Quentin Westberg push it around the post at full stretch.
Two minutes later, Philly finally broke through on a stunning back-to-front move. Aaronson, Bedoya, and Gaddis worked hard to break out of a deep trap on the right, and the captain found Jose Martinez in the center and the newly-returned midfielder sprayed it to the left for Kai Wagner to carry over the halfway stripe. Wagner saw Santos pushing the back line deep and unleashed a Hollywood cross behind the defense that Santos nodded in.
The dam broken, Philly surged on. In the 30th, Martinez sidestepped a defender and lasered a shot at Westberg that was pushed away. Then Bedoya picked out Wagner at the far post only for the defender’s drilled effort to be blocked out of play.
On the ensuing corner kick, Monteiro lifted the ball to the back post. Przybylko headed it back to the center where McKenzie tucked it into the far side netting for his second MLS goal.
The Union had, at that point, two more goals than Toronto had shots.
TFC would end the match with three total shots and only one that reached Andre Blake.
The second half saw more of the same. Monteiro claimed the goal his play deserved in the 56th minute. Collecting a pass into the center from Przybylko, he controlled the ball with the bottom of his foot before unleashing a dipping shot that smacked the crossbar and bounced into the net.
Santos got number two on the night in the 63rd minute, muscling away from his defender and turning Wagner’s cross into the far netting.
The Brazilian striker killed the game five minutes later. Aaronson sauntered past hi defender with a full-speed sprint that showed off his underrated athleticism. Santos, whose speed is never questioned, flew up the middle and tapped home the Homegrown’s cross with ease.
TFC never mounted a comeback or even a sign of life. Unquestionably one of the best teams in MLS, they simply were unable to match a Union side in full flight.
Philly, now with the best record in the league, faces Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday, October 28, at 7:30 p.m. ET on PHL17.