The Philadelphia Union have had many important matches in its 11-year MLS history, but never truly dominated in those performances. In its latest opportunity though, Jim Curtin’s side showed another example of the team they can be long-term as it moved to first place in the Eastern Conference with three matches remaining.
A 5-0 beatdown of Toronto FC at Subaru Park on Saturday night was the Union’s best performance so far in the shortened 2020 MLS regular season. Not only did it propel the Union into the drivers seat for the Supporters’ Shield trophy, but it could prove to be the biggest regular season win in club history.
Against its top competitor for the No. 1 seed in the East, the Union rolled and gave the remaining 25 MLS clubs another example of the respect they deserve going forward.
“I think it was our best team performance of the year,” Union centerback Mark McKenzie said post match. “Collectively we kept the zero on the board defensively and then we turned those defensive transitions into offensive transitions. We created a lot of chances, I was able to help with a goal as a defender which is important, and overall myself, Andre [Blake] and the rest of the backline is happy with the shutout today.”
“100% [it was a fast start],” McKenzie said. “We planned this week and knew what we had to do against a good team like Toronto. We matched their intensity as a group which we knew we had to do and then from there it was about putting away the chances and punishing them to avoid anything like the last time we played them in Connecticut.”
Unlike the 2-1 loss to Toronto back on Oct. 3rd, the Union raced out to a lead and never looked back in front of limited supporters in Chester. They were confident with the ball in possession, while also creating 27 shots in total with 12 of those being on target against Quentin Westberg.
Sergio Santos bagged his first career MLS hat trick, becoming the fourth Union player in history to do so. McKenzie also got on the scoresheet for the second time this Fall while Jamiro Monteiro’s screamer in the 55th minute, truly sucked the spirits out of the TFC players.
Kai Wagner and Kacper Przybylko each registered two assists while Brenden Aaronson also set up Santos’ for his final goal of the evening. Even with several TFC starters out of the lineup through injury, the Union made sure to show the rest of the league that they are a true challenger heading into the final few weeks.
“Ultimately we have a goal of bringing silverware back to Philly,” Mckenzie said. “The goal right now is to win the Supporters’ Shield and then hopefully fight for MLS Cup. We have three games left this regular season to build off this result and try to end the season on a high note. Luckily two of those games are at home in front of our people so that is huge for us.”
“It was another tough match just like the last time against Toronto, but the work from the team was great to see and we got the win,” Santos said. “We worked hard and I feel we got rewarded for our hard work put in this week.”
After seeing its then-five match unbeaten run snapped by Greg Vanney’s men earlier this month, the Union extended its new unbeaten run to five matches with Saturday’s victory. Most importantly, it puts them ahead of TFC on goal difference (+14) with three matches left on its schedule this season.
The Union’s schedule continues with a home match against the in-form Chicago Fire on Wednesday in Chester before a trip to face the third place Columbus Crew on Nov. 1st. Should results go their way over the next week, Curtin and his players might have the top spot wrapped up heading into a Decision Day clash at home against New England. For now, they will focus on improving and getting better in hopes of reach its long-term goal.
“We have three tough matches to end the season and there are still nine points left on the table that we are going to need to win the Shield,” Curtin said. “Luckily two of those games are at home where we are unbeaten this season so we just have to come out with the same intensity and continue working to get better as a team.”