Toronto showed very little attacking promise in the first 30 minutes of the match, with Philadelphia pressing forward with plenty of cohesion in the midfield. The field almost appeared tilted in favor of the Union, but the advantage disappeared after defender Danny Califf was called for a red card in the 34th minute.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," said Califf, who will miss the April 24th match against New York. "Tonight's loss, it's on my shoulders. As the captain, I should do a better job leading the team. I made a mistake tonight - and the team paid for my mistake."
Dwayne De Rosario capitalized on the awarded free kick, blasting a low ball that goalkeeper Chris Seitz has trouble with for the first goal of the match.
But the Union didn’t quit despite being down a man and a goal. Far from it.
In the 46th minute, Roger Torres continued his magical play, lofting a perfect ball over Toronto’s defense to Jordan Harvey, who calmly collected and slotted it past a helpless Stefan Frei. The goal showed the resilience of a young side that refuses to give up, despite facing the extreme adversity of playing over 90 minutes of the first three games down a man.
“The game changed towards the end of that first half and you have to deal with it, said Coach John Hackworth, who was filling in on the sidelines again for a mourning Peter Nowak. “For us to get a goal back right before halftime was a great response. It changes how we're going to deal with things at halftime. Up until the penalty, we were feeling pretty good. It’s very frustrating to walk away with no points out of this match.”
The players were certainly frustrated too, but not discouraged.
“If you go out there and play 90 minutes, it’s always going to be physical,” defender Michael Orozco said in the locker room. “You just have to put your sleeves up just like coach tells us at every practice and every game. It’s always going to be tough out there. We have to keep our heads in the game and try not to get those red cards like we did this game.”
Despite a performance that Seitz would like to have back, the Technical Staff’s confidence in him has not wavered.
“There’s no question about Chris Seitz,” said Hackworth. “He’s extremely talented, he’s a rookie in the sense that he’s going to make some mistakes. We knew that coming into this, but we have full confidence in him.”
"Obviously, it means a lot," Seitz said of Hackworth’s post-game comments. "We have a team that sticks together. I have good guys around me and we’re in this together. We’ll stick together and that’ll be good enough at the end of the day.”
One player who has caught everyone’s attention through three games is midfielder Roger Torres, 18, who has shown the ability to change direction on a dime and unleash pinpoint crosses in dangerous locations.
“He’s an awesome player,” said Hackworth. “We’re super excited to have him on his team. We think he’s going to be a big player in this league, for sure.”
While three games is hardly a large sample size, Torres’ form is already distinguishing the Colombian as one of the league’s most dangerous attacking midfielders.
“He’s a good player,” added defender Jordan Harvey. “I mean, you’ve seen the last three games. He’s a gamer, he comes in and plays really well for us.”
Torres wasn’t the only one to play well on Thursday night. In fact, a lot of what went right against D.C. was replicated against Toronto.
Fred’s patience on the ball and ability to work out of tight spaces kept the Union’s attack alive on numerous occasions. The two-way play of Andrew Jacobson and Stefani Miglioranzi once again limited the effectiveness of Toronto’s offense and initiated that of Philadelphia’s for the majority of the game. Cristian Arrieta and Jordan Harvey were rocks once again at right and left fullback, respectively. And while the pairing of Sebastien Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno didn’t duplicate the heroics of the Home Opener, both were very solid considering the 5-3-1 formation the club had to revert to playing with 10 men.
The Union will have more than a full week to prepare for New York, and judging by the way they came out after 16 days following the Seattle game, that’s a good thing.
This is by no means a ‘go back to the drawing board’ situation though. It was very apparent that Philadelphia was the more dynamic side on Thursday night. The expansion side must eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them through the first three games, but they undeniably look dangerous enough to beat any team in MLS.
Don’t forget, this is the youngest club in the League. That’s by no means an excuse for losing, but it does indicate that the ceiling is high and has by no means been hit.
There were a lot of positives to take out of Philadelphia’s 2-1 loss to Toronto, but the few negatives were costly and overshadowed a gutsy performance by the Union.
One thing is for sure: this is not an expansion team to be taken lightly. To the contrary, this is a team that’s a few eliminated errors away from being the talk of the league. Just three games into the 2010 campaign, there’s plenty of time to become just that.