Coming into Sunday’s game against the New York Red Bulls, the Union had found success only in fits and starts this season.
They picked a perfect time to put together for their most impressive effort of the season.
Conor Casey struck twice and Antoine Hoppenot delivered a rousing finish to give the Union a 3-0 win before 19,013 fans at PPL Park. The victory vaulted Philadelphia into second place in the Eastern Conference, with a game in hand on third-place New York.
The Union (7-4-5, 25 points) opened the game at a frenetic pace, and were rewarded for their efforts with an early goal. Just six minutes into the game, Sheanon Williams hit a pinpoint cross to Casey, and the towering forward rose to head the ball home.
Casey would have put the Union ahead even sooner, but his breakaway shot in the third minute was correctly ruled offside.
The Union continued to push the tempo, and were clearly frustrating the visitors. Midfielder Danny Cruz spent much the first half running at Red Bulls counterpart Lloyd Sam, leading to a fierce collision in the 29th minute. As Cruz slid for a loose ball, Sam stepped on Cruz’s leg. Referee Baldomero Toledo blew his whistle and gave Sam a red card for the infraction, delighting the already-raucous crowd.
But the Union failed to extend their advantage for the rest of the half - and New York (7-4-6, 25 points) almost made them pay dearly. In the 36th minute, Dax McCarty rose from a crowd to head in a Thierry Henry free kick, but he was a step offside in doing so. The goal was rightly waved off, and the Union escaped with their lead intact.
The Union started the second half much as they did the first, pressing hard early on. Casey and Sébastien Le Toux both had chances from close range in the first two minutes, but neither was converted.
Philadelphia finally got its deserved second goal in the 63rd minute. It started with Le Toux chasing down a loose ball on the right wing. He crossed to Casey, who trapped the ball with his chest and laid it off for Keon Daniel. The Triniadian shot from the edge of the 18-yard box, and Red Bulls goalkeeper couldn’t handle the shot. Casey pounced on the rebound and calmly slotted the ball in.
Hoppenot capped off the afternoon with the game’s final goal in the 88th minute, and again Le Toux played provider. He sent in another pinpoint cross from the right side, and Hoppenot charged in behind the New York back line to slam home the finish.
It was Le Toux’s MLS-leading seventh assist of the season. Although the Frenchman returned to Philadelphia hoping to be a forward, he has proven to be as good at providing service as scoring from them. Indeed, it has been an even better role for him so far.
Le Toux certainly isn’t complaining anymore. And after a game like this, the rest of his team isn’t either.