After going pointless in their first two games of the season, Toronto FC desperately needed to avoid harsh criticism and come away with their first victory against the expansion Philadelphia Union.
The benching of Nick Garcia was well overdue after a few horrendous displays at the back. The back-four of Toronto looked much more in sync today having Nana Attakora-Gyan providing much-needed stability and poise.
Julian DeGuzman seemed a tad out of place playing as more of an attacking midfielder, but settled as the game progressed and became more of a central midfielder, providing quality service to the forwards.
It was DeGuzman's hustle which eventually altered the game in the 33rd minute. A slow-rolling back pass from Philadelphia's Danny Califf was almost intercepted by DeGuzman, had it not been for the right elbow of Califf hitting his head. Califf was subsequently red-carded for his last-man infraction and the Union were forced to play the rest of the game without their captain.
Toronto lined up three players for the free kick, and their homegrown star Dwayne DeRosario hammered a low strike at Union keeper Chris Seitz. Seitz got a piece of the ball before it trickled over the goal line but he ultimately should have done better.
Toronto FC seemed to be taking advantage of being a man up until the brink of the first half, when Jordan Harvey finished a cross from Roger Torres to bring the Union on level terms.
The second half saw the attacking duo of Chad Barrett and O'Brian White brought in at the expense of the ineffective Martin Saric and Maksin Usanov, who was playing with a yellow card.
The duo added another dimension to the Toronto side allowing DeGuzman to sit back in the midfield and stretch the depleted Union defence.
Philadelphia managed to keep the second half interesting by creating some of their own chances.
Chad Barrett had a pair of golden opportunities to put Toronto FC ahead but he couldn't finish. It was not until the 80th minute that the halftime substitutions proved dividends. O'Brian White chased down a loose ball in the Union penalty area and was brought down by the Union keeper, resulting in a penalty shot. DeRosario buried the spot kick to bring his season total to three.
Toronto managed to hold onto the lead and walk away from BMO field with a much-needed three points. The win silences all critics—for now, but it may help convince their faithful that this season isn't lost yet. It may take some gelling for this new batch of Reds to start showing promise, but at least the effort was displayed tonight.
If Toronto can find a way to win on the road, their goal of having a playoff game this season may be within grasp.