Photo: Earl Gardner
The little used Kleberson picked the perfect time to open his MLS account, powering home a free kick deep into stoppage time and sending the 10-man Philadelphia Union to a much needed victory against Toronto FC. While the match itself was a dour affair with both sides struggling to create genuine goalscoring chances, Kleberson made the most of a rare appearance, waving away Sebastien Le Toux before freezing Joe Bendik on his line and sending PPL Park into delirium.
After a lackluster first half failed to produce an end product, both sides tried their luck in the second stanza. But neither side could do better than striking the woodwork. In the 77th minute, Fabinho appeared to have thrown away the Union’s chance to take all three points when he kicked the prone Alvaro Rey in the back, earning a straight red card.
But rather than allow themselves to despair, the ejection galvanized the remaining 10 players, and they pushed forward for the win they needed. At the back, a combination of good fortune and a number of timely interventions from Ray Gaddis kept Toronto at bay until Kleberson stepped into the spotlight and pushed his team back into a playoff spot.
John Hackworth said after the win, “I was asked earlier this week whether this is one of the most important games in our club history and absolutely it was because this game and this with the results from last night is enough to keep ourselves in the race and to keep ourselves above the red line.”
John Hackworth reverted to his typical 4-4-2 against TFC, recalling Jack McInerney in place of Michael Lahoud. Otherwise, the Union manager kept faith with the team that emerged from Sporting Park with a victory last weekend.
And the Union were quick to prove that they were keen to avoid any hangover from that vital win. Danny Cruz and McInerney had early chances with the Union throwing bodies forward, but neither found their way through the maze of legs in front of Bendik’s goal.
On the defensive end, recently acquired striker Bright Dike showed what a handful he can be when fully fit. His combination of size and quickness were of particular trouble for Jeff Parke, whose casual attempted clearance in the 8th minute nearly let Toronto in.
Despite their position in the table, Toronto had come to prove themselves and play spoilers. Buoyed by the interception of sloppy passing coming from deep in the Union’s half, Toronto began to mount a more consistent attack. But with Michael Farfan pulling the strings, the Union proved capable of countering with fluidity.
McInerney nearly broke his goalless streak in the 16th minute when Farfan led Conor Casey who in turn found Fabinho. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s low cross flew inches beyond the outstretched boot of the sliding McInerney and the chance went begging.
When the Union did get forward, Sheanon Williams overlapping runs proved dangerous. In the 31st minute, he had Toronto scrambling to deal with his low cross into the 6 yard box.
Staying close to his strikers, Farfan began to find space to create and after he danced down the end line in the 33rd, he cut back for Fabinho. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s first touch let him down and again Toronto converged to block the shot before it made its way to Bendik.
With time winding down to the half, Farfan took matters into his own hands, cracking a long drive that forced Bendik to push it away at full stretch.
Despite ending the first half on a high, the momentum was gone when the team’s emerged from the tunnel for the second 45.
Toronto nearly grabbed the match’s first goal in the 52nd minute when Williams felled Bobby Convey, setting up a dangerous free kick. Steven Caldwell flicked-on the initial ball, and while all that was needed was a final touch to guide it home, Dike was unable to position himself properly to finish the play.
Just before the hour mark, Antoine Hoppenot entered for a clearly frustrated McInerney and made an immediate impact. After Cruz stole the ball in midfield, Hoppenot opened up his run, allowing Cruz to slide him into the box. Receiving the ball in stride, Hoppenot beat Bendik, but not the goal post, sending groans rippling around PPL Park.
Doneil Henry continued to struggle with Hoppenot’s pace and direct running and the Union forward once more knifed into the box on 64 minutes. But, Hoppenot again could not find the target, slicing his shot well wide.
Just two minutes later, Bendik misjudged a cross, spilling it for Casey who was able to roll the ball back for Hoppenot. With the empty net in front of home, Hoppenot was unable to lift the ball over the sliding Henry, and the score remained deadlocked.
In the 77th minute, the complexion of the match changed.
As Fabinho wrestled with Rey on the sideline, the Spaniard appeared to throw the Brazilian to the ground. Rather than waiting for the referee’s justice, Fabinho stood up and appeared to kicked Rey — who was still down on the turf — in the back. After conferring with his assistant, referee Armando Villarreal sent off the Union wide man with a straight red card. Rey received a yellow card for his part in the scuffle.
Reduced to 10 men, Hackworth continued with a change he had planned before the ejection, bringing on Kleberson for a tiring Cruz.
Toronto nearly settled the game before Kleberson could get his first touch on the ball. In the 81st minute, substitute Robert Earnshaw stepped up to take a free kick after Williams saw yellow for scything down Rey as he raced into the Union box, an infraction that sees the the Union defender suspended for one game for yellow card accumulation. Hooking the ball over the wall, Earnshaw beat MacMath, but not the crossbar, with the ball caroming down off the line and out. Andrew Weideman was first to react to the rebound, but Parke out-muscled him to head the danger away.
With the Union pushing numbers forward despite playing with only 10 men, holes began to appear at the back. Twice Earnshaw appeared to have left defenders in his wake, only to be caught by the fleet-footed Ray Gaddis. On the third odd-man rush, Gaddis chased across the field, following Earnshaw’s pass to Rey. Arriving in time to make a play on the Toronto winger, Gaddis insured Rey could do little more than curl a weak shot into Zac MacMath’s waiting arms.
As the clock wore towards the fifth minute of stoppage time, Hoppenot again got the better of Henry. Cutting across the pitch, Hoppenot was felled just over 20 yards from goal, leaving Kleberson and Le Toux to eye up the resulting free kick. When Le Toux left the ball for Kleberson, the Brazilian made no mistake. Curling the ball over the wall and down just inside of Bendik’s post, the Toronto keeper could do little more than look on in despair as the ball nestled in the back of the net.
“I’m very, very happy,” Kleberson said after the game. “This goal is for the fans.”
With the win — the twelve of the season, a new franchise record — the Union are once again in fifth place in the Eastern conference ahead of next Saturday’s match in DC. They will have a week to reorganize with the knowledge that they will be without Fabinho and Sheanon Williams.
“We are going to have to juggle some things with D.C. United because Sheanon got his fifth yellow card so he will be out,” Hackworth said. “From what I hear, and I haven’t seen anything yet on video, but Fabinho’s red card might be appealable. That is a possibility to bring him back. Point is, when we look at the last five games, we knew that we had to get 3 points here tonight and we did.”
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Jeff Parke, Ray Gaddis; Danny Cruz (Kleberson 79), Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Fabinho; Conor Casey (Sebastien Le Toux ’68), Jack McInerney (Antoine Hoppenot ’58)
Unused substitutes: Oka Nikolov, Matt Kassel, Keon Daniel, Aaron Wheeler
Joe Bendik; Ashtone Morgan, Steven Caldwell, Doneil Henry, Mark Bloom; Alvaro Rey, Darel Russell, Jonathan Osorio, Jeremy Hall (Reggie Lambe ’89), Bobby Convey (Andrew Wiedeman ’67); Bright Dike (Robert Earnshaw ’63)
Unused substitutes: Jonas Elmer, Stefan Frei, Gale Agbossoumonde, Kyle Bekker
90+ – PHI: Kleberson
41 – PHI: McInerney (caution)
46 – TFC: Morgan (caution)
77 – PHI: Fabinho (ejection)
77 – TFC: Rey (caution)
79 – PHI: Williams (caution)
83 – TFC: Hall (caution)
86 – TFC: Bendik (caution)
Referee: Armando Villarreal
|Philadelphia Union||Toronto FC|
|19||Attempts on Goal||7|
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|7||Shots off Target||3|
|24||Open Play Crosses||5|
|2||First Yellow Cards||4|
|0||Second Yellow Cards||0|
|54%||Duels Won %||45%|
|78%||Passing Accuracy %||69%|