Toronto FC's Alex Bono finds home away from home playing in Philadelphia

CHESTER, Pa. — As Alex Bono emerged from the Talen Energy Stadium tunnel before Friday night’s game, it wasn’t lost on him that he was in the same place where he earned his first US national team cap less than two weeks ago.

“I had a little bit of deja vu as I was walking out,” the Toronto FC goalkeeper told “Then the whistle went and it felt like any ordinary game, just like a couple of weeks ago.”

Both games, though, were important ones for Bono, with the TFC goalkeeper earning his second shutout in the stadium in as many weeks. But unlike in the USMNT’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Memorial Day in which he didn’t even need to make a save, Bono came through with a couple of sparking stops in Friday’s 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union.

“I’ve always said that I like playing in Philly,” Bono said. “Cool stadium, cool atmosphere with the bridge behind and everything. The fans are always pretty ruthless here so for me that’s always kind of fun to play in front of.”

Philly fans, though, have had little to cheer about when they see Bono, who’s now 4-0 all-time against the Union with three straight clean sheets.

On Friday, his best saves came on a close-range David Accam rip in the 87th minute and, much earlier, on a Fafa Picault breakaway in the 13th minute.

“I thought Alex came up with some plays — one early and one late,” Toronto head coach Greg Vanney said. “Those are important moments in the game because goals change games and Alex did his job on the day. So I’m happy for him. He deserved the shutout.”

The stop on Picault, especially, was an impressive bit of poise and timing which helped set the tone of the game.

“He’s really fast,” Bono said. “And as he kept coming closer, I saw his touches getting further away and further away from him. That split second where he touches the ball a little too far in front of him once he was in the box, I was just trying to close it down. I knew he was going to get to it first, and at that point you just try to make him bury it and let it hit you.”

Like others in the visitor’s locker room, Bono hopes Friday’s win can help propel TFC to go on a “real run” after some struggles since the end of the Concacaf Champions League. And he’ll ready to help use some of his experiences with the US national team to help them move up the Eastern Conference table.

“Going to the national team is obviously the highest honor that a player can have,” Bono said. “To put the work in and be rewarded with getting my first cap was an amazing experience and I’ll cherish that moment forever. Now it’s working on if and when I get called back in there.

“And here, it’s trying to play my role. I see myself as a leader being the goalkeeper.”