Union manager one up on TFC

Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:55 PM ET

Philadelphia manager Peter Nowak knows how to win in Major League Soccer.

Although TFC provided little competition Saturday at BMO Field, the Union's 6-2 rout established that together with a few intelligent signings, a manager's understanding of the league can change a club's fortunes in one season.

A veteran of MLS, Nowak is showing how a familiarity with the circuit and its players can produce positive results in helping a struggling expansion franchise become a league-leading club.

While TFC's players must shoulder a majority of the responsibility for Saturday's result, Nowak's tactics had an answer for many of the things Aron Winter established in preseason.

As Adrian Cann and Danleigh Boreman were in reserve, Nowak exploited the rawness defenders Ty Harden and Dan Gargan offered on the left side. Pair that with an unfamiliar centre-back partnership between Harden and Dicoy Williams and the Philadelphia manager knew high pressure would frustrate Toronto's back four into careless mistakes.

With Richard Eckersley putting in a solid performance on the right side, another subtle move saw Nowak switch left-winger Justin Mapp to the right, which allowed him to exploit the left side of TFC's defence.

And when Maicon Santos brought the Reds to within striking distance, one has to wonder why Winter didn't pull another man into the midfield to prevent conceding more goals in the second half.

Although the decision to switch to a 4-2-4 in replacing Julian de Guzman with Javier Martina worked to start the second half, the Reds weren't preventing the Union from scoring with two holding midfielders. The formation left the midfield open for the Union to attack at will.

When Toronto clawed back to 3-2, TFC should have dropped a guy like Mikael Yourassowky into de Guzman's vacated spot.

The difference Saturday was not only the collective effort and patience shown by Philadelphia to dominate on the road, it demonstrated the advantage a manager familiar with the league and its players has over a coach that's exploring MLS for the first time.

BY THE NUMBERS

Saturday's match produced the highest goal total for a game since the Galaxy suffered a 6-3 home loss to Dallas in 2009 ... A bewildered Eckersley had trouble explaining the 6-2 final. "I'm at a loss for words and I can't really explain," he said. "We lacked a bit of team effort and that's what let us down today in conceding six" ... Still, the eight goals supporters witnessed Saturday is nowhere close to the 7-4 thrashing the Galaxy put on Colorado at the Rose Bowl in 1998 ... To this day, seven goals stands as the most goals conceded by an MLS club ... Without Stefan Frei, Philadelphia could have shattered the decade-long record. "My first touch (of the ball) is getting the ball out of the back of the net," Frei told reporters. "I don't know what to say. It was an embarrassing game" ... According to MLS, TFC actually out-controlled the Union, holding an overwhelming 62% of possession. That shows just how casual the Reds were in defence ... The 6-2 drubbing saw Philadelphia register a multiple goal game for just the second time this year.

DICOY'S DEPARTURE

With Williams away with Jamaican ahead of June's Gold Cup, Winter has a decision to make.

He almost has no choice but to try Nana Attakora in place of Williams next week after watching Harden struggle against the Union and the Reds concede a league-high 23 goals.

In his post-match media conference, Winter addressed the situation saying Attakora continues to perform well in training and will get a chance to amend the early-season struggles that saw him sit in favour of Harden and Williams.

PARTING THOUGHTS

A week of rest couldn't come at a better time.

TFC is winless in four but is still within reach of the Eastern Conference's top three due to the high number of draws the Reds have secured both home and away.

And with the league's new playoff format granting automatic births to the each conference's top three, it's far too early for an overreaction with bottom-feeders Kansas City in town next weekend.


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