The Philadelphia Union surged back into the playoff picture.
Sebastien Le Toux scored two goals, his team-best ninth and 10th of the season, leading the Union to a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact before an overflow sellout crowd of 18,703 Saturday night at PPL Park.
With the three points, the Union (6-8-9, 27 points) moved into a tie for the fifth and final playoff spot with the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference.
It was a hard-fought victory, which wasn’t always pretty at times. But the task in every match is to come away with three points.
And that’s exactly what the Union accomplished.
“Not a great performance, but three points at home (is) very, very valuable,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said.
With 11 league matches remaining, the Union don’t plan on being satisfied with just making the postseason.
“I want to push for second or third and make a real run at this,” Curtin said.
The Union are definitely making a real run, pushing their unbeaten streak to five – 2-0-3.
In the process, they also extended Montreal’s (3-14-5, 14 points) losing skid to seven. The Impact haven’t won a league match since June 29.
This match also loomed large with the return of defender Carlos Valdes, who rejoined the Union after a successful stint in the World Cup for Colombia. The fans chanted Valdes’ name on numerous occasions.
“It’s good to be back,” Valdes said. “I’m very excited for the rest of the season and everything that’s coming our way with the Open Cup and the rest of the league games. Our fans are great and it made me very, very happy.”
Le Toux gave the Union a quick 1-0 advantage in the 12th minute by using his all-out hustle to work his way through a pair of Montreal players for a clutch goal. Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath booted the ball beyond midfield and Le Toux somehow gathered the ball and got past Patrice Bernier and Krzysztof Krol.
In the 63rd minute, Andrew Wenger made a swift run, found Le Toux open inside the box and the Frenchman sent a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Troy Perkins for a 2-0 lead.
Wenger had just come on as the club's first substitute in the 62nd minute.
“I was just trying to make something happen,” Wenger said.
Later in stoppage time, Le Toux suffered an injury to his left ankle and limped off the pitch. It was wrapped in ice in the locker room.
“I was afraid it was something bad, but right now it feels better,” Le Toux said.
Le Toux nearly registered a hat trick in the 65th minute, but he fired a shot just over the goal from about 15 yards out.
Despite struggling mightily, the Impact never surrendered.
In the 79th minute, Montreal got within 2-1 when Maxim Tissot scored following a crisp pass from Andres Romero.
The Impact kept pushing the tempo and had chances to equalize in the final 11 minutes and roughly seven minutes of stoppage time.
In the end, the Union came away with a big victory, placing them right back in the thick of the playoff chase.
“We all knew it and understood it when things weren’t going our way earlier in the season,” said midfielder and captain Brian Carroll. “We just knew we had to go out and do it and keep finding ways to get things done. Tonight, we got it done and came away with the three points.”
The Union won’t have much time to celebrate as they prepare to head for Frisco, Tex., for a U.S. Open Cup semifinal matchup with FC Dallas on Tuesday night. Then on Friday night, the Union will play at the Houston Dynamo, attempting to extend their league unbeaten streak to six.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org