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Curtin laments poor officiating, defensive lapse in otherwise strong Union performance

CHESTER, PA–Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin thought his side produced one of the best halves in his tenure with the club on Saturday, but there were still a few things that hampered the final result at Talen Energy Stadium.

The Union showed no fear against arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference, as they attacked the wings of the Reds’ 3-5-2 formation from the start. The fast production in the final third led to Jay Simpson’s opener in the 11th minute.

“I thought the first 45 minutes was some of the best soccer we’ve played in a while, maybe ever,” Curtin said. “So from that standpoint, happy with the group.”

For the rest of the opening period, the Union created a good amount of chances and should’ve gone ahead by two goals after Fabian Herbers drew a penalty. However, Alejandro Bedoya struck his spot kick off the bar.

“It’s not the first and last penalty missed,” Bedoya said. “But I apologized to the team. I think at 2-0, we had them. The way we were playing, it could have been a totally different game. We could have beat them four or five to zero I think.”

The game changed right before halftime, when Jozy Altidore was felled in the box during a set piece routine. The call from referee Mark Geiger did not please the Union manager or the captain.

“It’s not a penalty,” Curtin said. “It’s clear. We’ve seen the video now. Referees make mistakes. I have to watch what I say. You guys saw the video of the play. There’s been a lot of initiatives come forward. I think you had all of them in one game, to be honest.”

“There’s always grabbing (in the box),” Bedoya said. “Watch clips on the corner kicks for any team. When you’re man-marking, the point is to not let them get an inch or two by you, so you’re always grabbing and whatever. From what I hear, (Jozy) was barely touched, and just went down easily. It was kind of soft penalty. ”

In addition to conceding a late first-half penalty to Toronto, the Union were caught off guard on the second TFC goal scored by Justin Morrow off a quickly-taken free kick. Morrow breezed by the Union back line and slotted home past Andre Blake.

“I’ll be the first to put my hand up,” Union defender Keegan Rosenberry said. “Obviously Morrow was on my side and we talk about all week being alert on set pieces and that’s something they succeed with. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I was to blame.”

Luckily for the Union, they picked up an equalizer a minute later on a strike by C.J. Sapong, who entered earlier than expected after Simpson left with a rib injury.

“We’re a team this year that we feel like we have options everywhere, whether it’s on the field or on the bench,” Sapong said. “I think it’s heightened the competition in practice and personally to come in, maybe not expecting to be in the game so early, is a credit to my teammates for really keeping me in the game and I had that one opportunity and was able to finish it.”

Despite the few lapses and the controversial call that didn’t go their way, the Union still picked up a point against one of the hardest teams to play in the East, With two points in the bank from two games, the club feels good heading into a two-game road swing against Orlando City and D.C. United.

“We still showed character to come back, get the second goal to tie it up and pushed for the third,” Curtin said. “Wasn’t meant to be on the day but overall a good team performance, something to build on and now we go two tough road games coming out.”

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