After an offseason of major changes, the Union entered their season opener without time to settle in. The visit of reeling Toronto FC — fresh off a humiliating defeat in the Concacaf Champions League — was, to no small degree, a must win, with trips to powerful Sporting Kansas City and Atlanta United up next.
The Union certainly looked different, and at times better. But the result was familiar: a 3-1 loss at a mostly empty Talen Energy Stadium.
For the first half-hour, the Union dominated. But they could not score, and naturally, they paid the price. In the 32nd minute, Andre Blake made a diving stop on Nick DeLeon, and Kai Wagner was whistled for a questionable hand ball as he tried to clear the rebound. Jonathan Osorio’s penalty kick was weak and low, and Blake saved it easily.
Toronto took the lead in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. With U.S. men’s national team general manager Earnie Stewart watching from a suite, former national team captain Michael Bradley capped off an 11-pass buildup with a wide-open tap-in.
Union manager Jim Curtin held off making substitutions in the early stages of the second half, despite having Sergio Santos and Brenden Aaronson on the bench. With little sign of an equalizer coming, the Union conceded a second goal to Bradley — even more unmarked this time — in the 62nd minute.
Haris Medunjanin was at fault both times, ball-watching as Bradley ran in front of him. It was a bad look for a player already under pressure to keep his spot in the lineup.
“I think with the ball, Haris was excellent,” Curtin said. “That’s the least of our concerns in terms of the team right now. We win games as a team, we lose games as a team, and we just came up short in both boxes tonight.”
Curtin finally pulled the trigger on a substitution in the 68th: Santos entered, Ray Gaddis exited and the team switched to a 3-5-2.
Asked why he took so long to start making moves, Curtin said: “We had a decent attacking group on the field as it was to start the game. We thought we gave them a good opportunity to make some plays, it just wasn’t a night when things went in for us.”
Five minutes after the change, the Union got a goal back when Marco Fabián scored a penalty kick after an Osorio hand ball. David Accam then replaced Ilsinho as Curtin chased an equalizer.