Bob Bradley wasn’t interested in talking about his 200th career MLS win, counting the regular season and playoffs.
“Not at all,” said the Toronto FC coach after his team downed the Philadelphia Union 2-1 Saturday to hand the league-leading Union their first defeat of the season.
“It’s all about the team and you’ve got to stay in the moment,” he added. “The thing that is so important is that you don’t become a good team by accident. You become a good team just with consistent training, consistent work every day. And then you can grow into becoming a good team.
“The most important thing in tonight is that I saw some of those things going in a good direction.”
Bradley was more interested in dissecting the good and bad of his team’s win.
“I believe in our football. I was very happy with the way we pushed and competed, but I still think our football, in moments, was not as sharp as I expect.”
The 64-year-old coach is a big soccer brain, honed from coaching the U.S. and Egyptian national teams as well as club sides in France, Norway, and the English Premier League — not to mention five MLS clubs.
He has shown in his short tenure here that he is not afraid to give youth its chance or challenge veterans to be better. And under his stewardship, TFC is showing signs of becoming a good team again.
Toronto (3-2-2) won its third in a row at home while extending its unbeaten run to four games (3-0-1). Philadelphia (5-1-1) had won a franchise-record five straight before Saturday, including four consecutive clean sheets which matched a club mark set in 2017, and was the only MLS team without a defeat.
Saturday’s win wasn’t pretty — it was a niggly game with no shortage of ill-temper — and TFC bent but didn’t break as the Union pressed late. But it showed it could grind out a win against talented opposition that kept coming.
Philadelphia outshot Toronto 14-7 (5-4) in shots on target and had 10 corners to TFC’s four.
It was a chilly evening for the announced crowd of 20,809 at BMO Field with a temperature of four degrees feeling like minus-two.
Alejandro Pozuelo decided the game in the 51st minute with a beautiful goal, taking a pass from Kadin Chung and then dribbling through three defenders before slotting the ball past a diving Andre Blake into the corner. It was the second goal of the season for the Spanish playmaker, named league MVP in 2020.
Philadelphia had its chances later in the game but couldn’t take advantage. Toronto suffered through some seven minutes of stoppage time.
Argentine forward Julian Carranza opened the scoring for Philadelphia in the 34th minute, heading home a cross from Danish international Mikael Uhre with the Toronto defence at sixes and sevens following a rush down the left flank that saw Uhre out-distance defender Shane O’Neill. Toronto has now conceded a goal in a club-record 19 straight home matches.
Jesus Jimenez answered for Toronto in the 39th minute, elegantly curling a shot past Blake after Jonathan Osorio dribbled his way into the Union penalty box and played a sweet give-and-go with the Spaniard. Jimenez’s fourth goal this season snapped Philadelphia’s 457-minute shutout streak, dating back to March 5 when Lassi Lappalainen scored for Montreal in a 2-1 loss March 5 at Olympic Stadium.
It was the longest goalless streak in MLS this season. And just the third goal conceded by Blake, who came into the game with a miserly 0.33 goals-against average. The Union ‘keeper’s last appearance at BMO Field was in the 4-0 Jamaica loss on March 27 that clinched a World Cup berth for the Canadian men.
Philadelphia appeared to have gone back ahead three minutes later off a corner. Pozuelo headed the ball away but it went straight to Kai Wagner whose volley from well outside the box went through traffic and past Alex Bono. But referee Alex Chilowicz, after going to the pitchside monitor, waved it off on the grounds that an offside player had obscured the Toronto ‘keeper.
“We didn’t have our best night defensively as a team,” said Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin.
Philadelphia was irate in the 19th minute when Jayden Nelson only received a yellow card for a nasty, high challenge on Wagner in the corner.
“You can’t go into a challenge like that. It’s a straight red card … As clear as day, a straight red,” said Curtin.
Bradley replaced Nelson at halftime, perhaps to protect him from a second yellow card after that first-half incident. Osorio, playing in his 299th career game for TFC in all competitions, exited in the 56th minute after taking a knock.
Bradley made three changes to the team that tied 2-2 at Real Salt Lake last week with Chris Mavinga, Chung and Jayden Nelson coming in for Carlos Salcedo, suspended after being red-carded, Lukas MacNaughton and Kosi Thompson.
TFC II defenders Themi Antonoglou, 20, and Adam Pearlman, 17, were on the bench after signing short-term loan agreements Friday.
Forward Ayo Akinola, out since injuring his knee last July playing for Canada at the Gold Cup, was also among the substitutes — a first since undergoing surgery in August.
Philadelphia hosts CF Montreal next Saturday while TFC heads to New York to play NYCFC at Citi Field next Sunday.
The Toronto-Philadelphia soccer matchup kicked off some 70 minutes after the Raptors and 76ers tipped off in Philadelphia in Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoff matchup. The Sixers won 131-111.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2022