For the underdog Union to overtake powerful Toronto FC on Wednesday in the opening round of the 2016 MLS playoffs, they needed a near-perfect effort.
They didn’t get it.
Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore abused Union rookie center back Ken Tribbett to help Toronto FC dismantle the Union, 3-1, at BMO Field.
“Only one team’s season ends the right way, good and with a smile,” Union manager Jim Curtin told reporters after the game. “Our season ends now, it’s difficult. Somewhere deep down in there, I do feel like Philadelphia Union fans and players can walk a little taller. We’re a franchise that is moving in the right direction.”
Toronto FC will face New York City FC in a two-game aggregate playoff.
After a strong first five minutes of the match, the Union’s worst nightmare came true in the 15th minute, when Tribbett, who needed to be subbed for poor play in a match against Toronto FC in late August, flubbed a clear that bounced back to Andre Blake. The goalkeeper aggressively pursued the ball but wasn’t strong enough to get possession, allowing Altidore to make a crisp cross-box pass to wide open Giovinco for the opening goal and 1-0 lead.
“We were happy with how we came out, we put pressure on them,” Union veteran Chris Pontius said. “The goal was a crazy play, it just breaks down and they get a goal.”
Toronto FC’s lead was doubled by Jonathan Osorio just three minutes into the second half when he capitalized off a corner. But the Union battled back.
The Union managed to trim the host’s lead in half, 2-1. Tranquillo Barnetta’s corner was flicked by Tribbett to Ilsinho, who hit it back across the box to Richie Marquez. The center back found Alejandro Bedoya wide open on the doorstep.
“I thought our team pushed the game,” Curtin said. “Especially in the second half.”
Yet, despite the mild comeback for the Union, Toronto FC put the opposition away in the 85th, when off a fast break, Altidore buried one off another failed clearance from Tribbett for the 3-1 final.
“It was a mistouch,” Curtin said. “If you give Jozy two looks, he’s going to get one. They were broken plays.”
Although the Union began the season with a burst and flirted with being the surprise of the Eastern Conference, they collapsed at the end. Curtin’s club completed the year with four straight losses and went winless in its final eight matches of the season.
“When we started the season, nobody had us playing in a 35th game, for sure,” Curtin said. “We had a dip in form and we don’t hide from that. But we’ve moved forward. We know we need to get better in the offseason.”