CHESTER, Pa. - Even with a brand new coaching staff in place, the result was more of the same.
Ten-man Toronto FC slumped to a 1-0 defeat in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, the club's first game since the firing of manager Ryan Nelsen and most of his coaching staff.
Greg Vanney's first challenge in charge of TFC was a home and home series against the Union, with the teams playing two games against each other in just four days. Toronto started slowly at PPL Park on Wednesday and couldn't overcome a second half red card, but the new manager was pleased with his team's improvement and effort as the game went on.
"We got ourselves into good positions," Vanney told reporters post-game. "Was it the overall performance we were looking for? Not exactly. But we worked. The guys worked their socks off the entire match. Even a man down they created some problems. Credit to the guys for that. We've got to turn around in the next four days and sort out a few details, but I think there are some things to learn from this match and hopefully we can improve in the next one."
Vanney made two changes to the side that lost 3-0 at home to New England last week. Ashtone Morgan was preferred at left back, with Mark Bloom moving to the right side of defence and Nick Hagglund pairing centrally with Doneil Henry.
Gilberto was dropped for Daniel Lovitz, who started wide and pushed Dominic Oduro from the midfield into a more advanced role.
The team is now 9-10-6 on the season, tied with Columbus and Philadelphia on 33 points.
"This is a good group, a group that comes every day ready to challenge each other and push each other," said midfielder Michael Bradley. "Each guy is ready to give everything for the sake of the group. When you go through a difficult time, it's normal that there are conversations, and guys are challenging each other, and that questions are being asked amongst ourselves. In a big game tonight, I still thought the effort, the commitment, the energy, and all of these things were there. They made one more play than we did, and, unfortunately, that's football sometimes."
Goalkeeper Joe Bendik was called into action early on, denying a Conor Casey effort that looked bound for the bottom corner. Toronto had failed to deal with a Cristian Maidana set piece, and the ball squirted free for a right-footed effort from the penalty marker.
Toronto's best chance of the first half came in the 34th minute, when Maurice Edu was whistled for a handball just outside the box, positioned dead centre in front of the goal. Bradley took the free kick for TFC, but blasted his shot into the Union wall, and Philadelphia cleared.
It was a 0-0 game at the half, and Vanney brought in Gilberto for Jonathan Osorio, after it appeared that the midfielder had picked up a bit of an injury and hobbled into the tunnel.
Bendik was again up to the task in the second half, denying the Union on a well-taken corner kick. Amobi Okugo rose to attack Maidana's service, and the netminder got a big right hand to the headed effort, keeping the home side off the board.
But he couldn't keep the Union out in the 55th minute.
Collecting the ball wide right, the lively Maidana sprung Sebastien Le Toux brilliantly into open space. Pushing into the penalty area, the French striker hit a perfect cross for Casey to hammer home from point blank range.
MacMath then stoned Gilberto on a solid try from 16 yards out on the other end.
Morgan was sent off in the 76th minute, after he pulled down Le Toux during a Union breakaway. Hagglund had turned the ball over in the Union half, forcing Morgan to chase from behind. The left back was shown a straight red card for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity.
"It's a tough one to take for us," midfielder Collen Warner added. "We wanted to at least get a point coming in here, obviously. It seems like we're in a bit of a slump, but it's not something that isn't necessarily expected. It's a long season and we're facing a lot of injuries at the moment. The guys gave everything tonight, and that's what I take away from it. We're still fighting through this and things will turn. It's the way it works and we're just waiting to catch our break, then we'll be off."
Toronto now takes a four-game winless streak back to BMO Field for Saturday's return match.