TORONTO - Toronto FC moved one step closer to a place in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 win on Saturday evening over Philadelphia Union. The defeat, meanwhile, eliminates Philadelphia from postseason contention.
TFC were still in a position to clinch their first-ever postseason berth on Saturday night, but Orlando City won their match against the Montreal Impact, meaning Toronto faithful would have to wait.
After a slow start in which neither team could find their footing on a wet and wind-swept pitch, Toronto took the lead in the 28th minute, once again thanks to a Sebastian Giovinco free kick.
Philadelphia could not contain the darting movement of the Italian and his teammates, who bossed large stretches of possession, forcing the Union into repeatedly conceding fouls around the edge of the area. It was one such challenge on Jozy Altidore, having turned past C.J. Sapong wide on the right, that set up the free-kick opportunity.
Giovinco stood over the ball, sending a right-footed effort towards goal. Union defender Ray Gaddis leaped to block the attempt, only to see the ball skid off his back, looping up high into the air before nestling in at the far side past helpless goalkeeper Andre Blake.
It was Giovinco's 21st goal of the season, marking his call-up to the Italian national team on Saturday and he paid homage to baseball's playoff-bound Toronto Blue Jays (and rapper Lil B) with his goal celebration.
Giovinco would nearly add a second goal from a dead ball, but Blake was equal to the task, preventing it from finding the top left-corner in the 42nd minute.
Still shaking off a devastating midweek shootout loss to Sporting KC in the 2015 US Open Cup Final, the Union, having made near-wholesale lineup changes, struggled to trouble TFC. They waited until the 52nd minute to get their first shot – a long-range free-kick from Cristian Maidana easily handled by TFC 'keeper Chris Konopka.
Altidore would double the lead for the hosts in the 63rd minute, pouncing when a Marky Delgado cross from the right fell kindly to him inside the area. He then corralled the ball and beat Blake with a low shot against the grain.
After introducing several regulars off the bench, Philadelphia would pull one back in the 66th minute, when local boy Steven Vitoria rose up to get on the end of a deep Maidana cross at the left post, flicking a header past Konopka, to make a game of the remaining time. The goal also marked Vitoria's first in MLS.
But an own-goal in the 91st minute would seal the result for Toronto, with the Union's Richie Marquez touching a Jonathan Osorio cross into the gaping net. That made a third-straight home win and a season sweep of the Union for TFC.
Both teams are off next weekend, but Toronto returns the following midweek for a fourth-straight home match on Wednesday, October 14, against the New York Red Bulls. Philadelphia, too, will face the Red Bulls next, the following Sunday, October 18.