Toronto FC thrashed by Philadelphia Union in top-of-the-table showdown

Sergio Santos, of the Philadelphia Union, celebrates after his goal against Toronto FC during the first half of an MLS match. (Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

CHESTER, Pa. — Sergio Santos scored three goals as the Philadelphia Union thrashed an understrength Toronto FC 5-0 in a top-of-the-table showdown Saturday night, ending TFC's undefeated run at nine games.

Mark McKenzie and Jamiro Monteiro added singles with Kacper Przybylko contributing three assists for a rampant Philadelphia. The margin of victory could have been higher had it not been for some fine saves by overworked Toronto 'keeeper Quentin Westberg,

The lopsided win moved the Union into first place in the league and Eastern Conference on goal difference over Toronto with both teams at 12-3-5. TFC had gone 7-0-2 since suffering a pair of losses Sept. 1 and 5, against Montreal and Vancouver respectively.

It marked the first time Toronto had given up five goals since a 5-1 loss to Houston in April 2018. That day, Toronto fielded a second-string lineup in advance of a CONCACAF Champions League game.

Philadelphia ran its undefeated streak to five (4-0-1) since a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Oct 3 in East Hartford. The Union also improved to 7-0-0 in league play this season at Subaru Park, which has opened its door with local authorities allowing 15 per cent capacity or approximately 2,775 spectators.

Philadelphia wasted little time taking it to a Toronto lineup missing some big names through injury. Used to being the hammer, Toronto was the nail on this night and found itself down 2-0 after 33 minutes.

The Union outshot Toronto 15-1 (6-0 in shots on target) in the first half alone, with 60 per cent possession and nine corners to TFCs one.

The Union went ahead in the 27th minute on a rapid-fire counter attack after Brazilian fullback Auro and Erickson Gallardo both lost possession for Toronto in the Philadelphia end. Jose Martinez swept the ball wide to Kai Wagner, who made a run down the left flank and floated in a perfect cross that Santos headed in as defender Omar Gonzalez lunged in vain at the ball.

The Union doubled the lead off a corner in the 33rd minute, taking advantage of some shambolic defending. Monteiro's corner found Przybylko alone beyond the back post and he floated a header to an unmarked McKenzie to head it in from close range as a half-dozen defenders looked on.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney had seen enough, replacing Gallardo with Patrick Mullins in the 35th minute.

Monteiro made it 3-0 in the 56th minute with a booming shot off that cracked in off the cross bar after a giveaway by Liam Fraser. Santos scored his second on the night in the 63rd minute, knocking in a cross from Wagner with little opposition from Toronto. A dummy run by Brenden Aaronson added some sizzle to the goal.

Santos' hat trick came in the 68th minute, with the unmarked Brazilian knocking in an Aaronson cross over Westberg. It raised Santos' season goals total to seven

Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who came off the bench last week in his return from a knee injury, made his first start since Sept. 1. It represented his 200th career MLS regular-season start.

But Vanney had plenty of other injury concerns including designated player Pablo Piatti who sat out with calf tightness.

Centre back Chris Mavinga and striker Ayo Akinola missed their second straight game with hamstring issues. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who left last week's 1-0 win over Atlanta after just 20 minutes with a hamstring injury, did not dress.

Star forward Jozy Altidore, another Toronto DP, is a long-term casualty with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

Richie Laryea, Nick DeLeon and Gallardo came into the starting 11. Gallardo had played just 62 minutes in two substitute appearances since March 7, when he started the second game of the season.

Alejandro Pozuelo played up front with Tsubasa Endoh, Gallardo and DeLeon trying to offer support. But the Toronto attack offered nothing and Pozuelo, usually a game-changer, was rarely seen.

Justin Morrow, who had missed the last four matches with a calf strain, and Fraser replaced Auro and Marky Delgado at halftime.

Midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who turned 16 on June 16, became the youngest player to appear for TFC when he came in the 72nd minute -- four minutes after Santos exited to applause.

Coming into the contest, Toronto had lost just two of 29 regular-season games (16-2-11) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.

TFC has three regular-season games remaining -- at New York City FC, versus Inter Miami and at the New York Red Bulls. Auro will miss the midweek NYCFC game due to yellow card accumulation.

Bedoya, Philadelphia's captain, returned from suspension with Martinez joining him after fulfilling quarantine following time away on international duty.

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