CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union are headed to the playoffs.
In their final home game of the 2011 regular season, the Union played Toronto FC to a 1-1 draw, in front of a record-crowd of 19,178 at PPL Park on Saturday. Regardless of that outcome, the club secured a playoff spot when the Red Bulls fell to Sporting Kansas City simultaneously.
The Union (11-7-15), spurred by another goal from red-hot Sébastien Le Toux, are now tied with Sporting Kansas City (12-9-12) atop the Eastern Conference with one game to play in the regular season. SKC hold the tiebreaker based on goals scored.
Ryan Johnson scored for Toronto, which moved to 6-13-14 with the result.
The Union took a 1-0 lead right before halftime when a sloppy Toronto clearance gave the ball to Philly midfielder Justin Mapp in the offensive third, with numbers. Mapp then fed an open Le Toux, who turned, took a dribble to his right and buried a shot into the bottom left corner of the net, past a diving Milos Kocic.
It was the 10th goal in the last 11 games for Le Toux, who leads Philly with 11 goals and nine assists.
Earlier in the game, the Union had some chances but couldn’t convert. In the first 10 minutes, Philly used some nifty dribbling and excellent passing sequences to give Sheanon Williams and Michael Farfan close-range shots that couldn’t quite find the back of the net.
Later, in the 29th minute, a curling free kick from Freddy Adu was knocked away by Kocic, who finished with six big saves for Toronto.
Toronto FC was paced offensively by striker Joao Plata – who made a couple of nice runs in the first half – but didn’t get on the scoreboard until early in the second half when Johnson finished off a cross from teammate Nick Soolsma with a quick first touch that scooted by Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón.
It was the third goal of the season for Johnson, who was traded from San Jose to Toronto in July.
Mondragón, making his first start since Sept. 3 after missing seven straight games with a broken finger, finished with three saves for Philly.
With the game tied at 1-1, the Union pushed hard for the win, even though a tie would have been enough to clinch a playoff berth.
Just a minute after Toronto’s goal, Williams had a close-range shot saved by Kocic after being sprung free by Le Toux. Shortly after that, Kocic made another big stop when Jack McInerney – who had just entered the contest for Adu – made a cutback move followed by a quick strike on net. And then in the 68th minute, Kocic was at it again, stopping Paunovic, who made a delicate first touch on a lobbing pass from Michael Farfan and blasted it right at the Toronto ’keeper.
A few more chances came and went for the Union, who wrapped up their home schedule with a 7-1-9 record at PPL Park.
The Union will play their regular-season finale on Oct. 20 at Red Bull Arena with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line for them and New York scrambling to get into the playoffs.
Toronto next take on FC Dallas in a CONCACAF Champions League game on Oct. 18 before wrapping up their regular-season slate against New England next Saturday.
PHI -- Sebastien Le Toux 11 (Justin Mapp 4) 42
TOR -- Ryan Johnson 3 (Nick Soolsma 5) 57
Toronto FC -- Milos Kocic, Doneil Henry (Kyle Davies 69), Ty Harden, Andy Iro, Ashtone Morgan, Matt Stinson, Eric Avila, Torsten Frings (Nathan Sturgis 54), Nick Soolsma, Joao Plata (Gianluca Zavarise 59), Ryan Johnson.
Substitutes Not Used: Danny Koevermans, Peri Marosevic, Mikael Yourassowsky, Stefan Frei.
Philadelphia Union -- Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll, Freddy Adu (Jack McInerney 62), Justin Mapp (Roger Torres 76), Veljko Paunovic (Danny Mwanga 72), Sebastien Le Toux.
Substitutes Not Used: Stefani Miglioranzi, Kyle Nakazawa, Amobi Okugo, Zac MacMath.
TOR -- Andy Iro (caution; Reckless Tackle) 43
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Referee's Assistants: Eric Proctor; Daniel Belleau
4th Official: Drew Fischer
Time of Game: 1:54
Weather: Sunny and 65 degrees