Jim Curtin has won a lot of gambles from the Union’s bench over the last few weeks. He lost one Friday night.
Curtin put Borek Dockal and Ilsinho in central midfield to start against Toronto FC, instead of starting Derrick Jones. Curtin had been critical of Jones’ outing in Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup win over Richmond, and wanted to improve the odds of scoring early.
But the scoring didn’t come early, and it didn’t come late either. The result was a 2-0 loss before 16,493 at Talen Energy Stadium.
Curtin said his lineup was designed “to get the guys in the best form on the field,” and “to be proactive and be aggressive.” He didn’t mention Jones directly, but he made an allusion that needed little interpreting.
“We used the Richmond game as kind of an audition for guys, and we still chose to play Ilsinho and Borek in there,” Curtin said. “We created a lot of chances. If we had scored, it’s probably a non-question … It didn’t work.”
Jonathan Osorio scored both Toronto goals. The first featured a series of crisp passes from Michael Bradley to Victor Vázquez to Osorio. As Osorio received the ball, he split Union defenders Keegan Rosenberry and Mark McKenzie with one touch, then raced away to finish.
The Union (5-7-3, 18 points) controlled most of the first half otherwise, with an 8-5 edge in shots on target and 54 percent of the possession. Most of the shots weren’t great, though, save for a back-heeled finish by Fafa Picault that was rightly ruled offside.
Things didn’t look as good early in the second half, but Picault offered a spark with a 20-yard curling shot off the crossbar. Curtin tried to light some more fires in the 61st minute by inserting Cory Burke for C.J. Sapong, who was once again ineffective.
Jones finally entered in the 69th minute. Perhaps Curtin’s bet wasn’t lost too bad, given the 1-0 margin and the Union’s many chances. David Accam joined the fray in the 74th, replacing Ilsinho.
But five minutes later, Toronto (4-7-2, 14 points) scored again. Sebastian Giovinco intercepted a poor throw-in by Rosenberry, Osorio was unmarked, and Giovinco didn’t have to look hard to find him. The finish was easy, too.
Would the game have looked different had Alejandro Bedoya won his red card appeal? Of course. But Curtin could only play the players he had, and at the end of five games in 13 days, the team’s tank seemed low.
Now, they have eight days until their next game, a U.S. Open Cup round-of-16 clash with the New York Red Bulls next Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.
Toronto, meanwhile, looked like what it was supposed to look like: a reigning champion that knows how to earn wins. The Reds have been on the ropes this year due to injuries, but when it mattered, they found the edge that the Union couldn’t.