The Philadelphia Union beat Toronto FC for the second time in four days to move clear in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference play-off hunt.
Conor Casey fired the only goal of the match on Wednesday night, and was at it again less than 72 hours later. His header opened the scoring at BMO Field, before the New Hampshirite was joined on the score-sheet by Andrew Wenger.
The odds were always stacked against the hosts, who were without victory against the Pennsylvanians in their last six meetings and still missing star man Jermain Defoe, who tried to force a return to the Barclays Premier League earlier in the week.
And though Michael Bradley had the game’s first attempt with a low fizzer that was comfortably gathered by Zach MacMath, Casey broke the deadlock in the eighth minute. Climbing above his marker, the 33-year-old deftly flicked Sheanon Williams’ first-time cross into the far corner.
Some of the goal-scorer’s theatrics then started to rile the Toronto players, and their tempers might have risen further had Joe Bendik not impressively beaten away Sebastien le Toux’s thumped effort. However, moments later, the Georgian was thankful to Doneil Henry for a crucial clearance following a mix-up on the edge of the Reds’ area.
But it was only a temporary reprieve, and on the stroke of half-time, Wenger doubled Philadelphia’s advantage. Williams was again the creator as he cushioned Le Toux’s delivery back to where the former Montreal Impact forward was waiting to head across Bendik.
Casey could have added another in the 53rd minute, but after Christian Maidana’s delayed centre, he scuffed his volley wide of the target.
This finally sparked the Ontarians into life, and when Mark Bloom cut inside and drilled towards the bottom corner, MacMath was required to brilliantly tip onto the foot of the upright. Nick Hagglund was the next to go close, but he nudged the ball into the advertising hoardings from Kyle Bekker’s in-swinger.
Bradley then managed a pair of attempts, but the goalkeeper firmly palmed his drive clear, before he flicked a corner over the cross-bar. Though Maidana’s hammer was deflected past the back post, Toronto were soon back on the attack, and Jackson clattered against the woodwork from close-range.
There had been some debate about whether Maurice Edu had touched on Wenger’s earlier finish, but he almost grabbed a goal for himself with a 25-yard blast that Bendik eventually recovered. The Union had withstood the home pressure, and poured forward in attack in the closing stages of the match, with substitute Pedro Ribeiro particularly prominent.
One last Reds effort smashed the bar, but Philly were able to hold on for another precious three points.