Raise your hand if you expected the Union to win last night.
Not wanted them to win, or hoped they would win. Expected they would win.
I'll admit it: I didn't. The Red Bulls have been playing so well lately, and are so stacked with talent, that I figured their visit to PPL Park would end the way so many other nights at PPL Park this year did.
But the Union simply refused to close PPL Park for the year with a loss. There's no other way to describe the level of energy and effort they brought to the game, late in an October jammed with home and road games against many of the top teams in MLS.
Credit for this is due primarily to two Union players: Fred and Sebastien Le Toux. Fred scored a goal, blocked a thumping free kick with his head, and made a game-saving clearance on the goal line in the very last seconds of second-half stoppage time.
Le Toux, for lack of a better way to put it, did everything possible in a game except score. He set up both goals, took all the set pieces (pretty well, too), and commanded the flow of the Union's attack from the center of midfield and the flanks.
I haven't written about Le Toux too much this season, in part because I've felt like it hasn't been all that necessary. The Frenchman's contributions have been obvious to everyone, and I usually like trying to find stories that fly a little bit below the radar.
Last night, though, Le Toux really impressed me. His workrate is tremendous. From the moment he stepped on the field back in March until now, he has given everything he's had every minute he's been on the field. It's amazing that he's kept himself at such a high level all year.
I am pretty sure Le Toux will be named MLS' Most Valuable Player this season. He at least seems to have most of the votes of the East Coast-based media, many of whom have especially influential voices in the soccer community.
There is still one more game left to go this year, but tonight really felt like a closing act. The Union put together their best 90 minutes of the season and won a game in what is quite cleary a fierce rivalry, not just for the fans here in Philadelphia but for the hundreds who traveled from New York as well.
We will have plenty of time in the coming weeks to reflect on this game and this season as a whole. For now, here's a whole bunch of audio interviews from after the game, as well as an exclusive interview with Union president Tom Veit I recorded at halftime.
There are also video highlights from the game below, and a photo gallery from the match above.