Week 18 Recap: Three Goals, Three Points

By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Union finally ended their winless streak on Wednesday, putting in a dominant first half performance against Toronto FC to move up to third place in the Eastern Conference standings, just one point behind Orlando City SC.

The home side got off to a hot start, with defender Jack Elliott taking an early chance to send a 30-yard rocket towards Toronto goalie Alex Bono. Bono was able to control the ball, but the message was received: the Union were determined to not let this matchup end in anything but a win.

Kacper Przybyłko came close to netting the first goal of the game, getting his head on a corner kick from Kai Wagner. Bono was forced to make another save, but the Union were earnestly knocking on the door for a goal.

They wouldn’t have to wait much longer for their opener, after a second corner kick-to-header chance allowed Daniel Gazdag to assist a Jakob Glesnes header to whip into the net. This goal is Glesnes’s third of the season, the most of any MLS defender so far.

Then, in the 32nd minute, Sergio Santos picked up right where he left off against Toronto, moving in on Bono after a deflection found the ball at Santos’s feet. Bono’s attempt to control the pressure from the Brazilian earned a penalty, which Gazdag took, and converted into his first MLS goal.

Jose Martinez was the driving force behind the Union’s next big offensive push, stealing the ball out of the Union’s defensive third. He spotted Santos’s run, angling a ball directly into the striker’s path. A simple chip over Bono’s leg was all it took to notch the Union’s third goal, sending them into halftime up 3-0.

The second half got off to a nervy start, as Toronto’s Richie Laryea twisted and turned in the box, kicking Elliott’s leg as he tried to shake the center back. Referee Ted Unkel chose not to review the chain of events on the VAR monitor, instead pointing to the spot, and putting Union fans on the edge of their seats. Yeferson Soltedo stepped up to take the penalty, but in true Andre Blake fashion, the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year dived the right way and kept the visitors scoreless.

Toronto’s offense seemed thoroughly depleted after the failed penalty, but the Union’s was still going strong. Cory Burke came on for Santos, and immediately saw action after Olivier Mbaizo found Alejandro Bedoya, who was able to single out Burke, but the shot deflected off Przybylko and wide of Toronto’s net.

The dominance didn’t let up in the 74th minute, as Jim Curtin put fresh legs in the form of Quinn Sullivan and Paxten Aaronson on the field. Aaronson took an ambitious shot from far out, but it got lost in the number of bodies in the box. Fellow youngster Jack McGlynn came on, who was able to thread a ball to Wagner that was ultimately blocked. It didn’t matter much, though—the Union finished the match with a comfortable 3-0 victory.

Man of the Match: He had a stellar night the last time the Union played Toronto, and Santos only continued that form in this game. He contributed to two of the goals that night, and showed his raw power in front of the goal. He’s an expert at applying pressure to goalies, and his constant runs forward on the counterattack provided a reliable target for the Union’s midfielders to pass to. Had Curtin not taken him off as a precaution against aggravating a knock to his knee, he could’ve easily gotten another goal.

The Main Takeaway: This is what the Union offense is capable of. This is just further evidence that the players themselves aren’t necessarily the issue—it’s more how they interact with each other and communicate during counterattacks. The offense was relentless, and it paid off in spades. When the team watches back tapes of this game, they need to internalize the fact that they are more than capable of doing this every week against opponents more challenging than Toronto. This was the spark that they needed to start making an aggressive challenge for the top of the table.

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