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The road to the MLS Eastern Conference championship runs through Subaru Park. The Union defeated Toronto FC 4-0 Sunday afternoon with a hat trick from Daniel Gazdag to finish the season undefeated at home and 19-5-10 overall. The victory clinches the top seed in the east and a first round playoff bye for the Union.

The Union jumped out early in the 4th minute when Gazdag took a shot from the left side of the box which curled inside the right post for the first goal of the night. In the 41st minute Gazdag sent a through ball to Mikael Uhre who got in front of the pack and sent a roller from the center of the box just past Toronto goalie Quentin Westburg into the bottom right corner of the net. A few minutes later in stoppage time, Toronto’s Marc Anthony Kaye caught Andre Blake flat footed outside of the box and took a shot which defender Olivier Mbaizo blocked before the goal line to save the goal and preserve the shutout going into halftime with a 2-0 lead.

In the second half, a Union corner kick in the 57th minute drew a hand ball penalty on Shane O’Neill which set up a penalty kick for Gazdag. Gazdag easily sent it past Westburg for his 7th PK goal of the season. Gazdag completed his second hat trick of the season a few minutes later in the 63rd minute when he sent a right footer home from the center of the box for the final tally of 4-0.

In the postgame press conference, Coach Jim Curtin made it clear that the team is aware that for all the regular season accolades, legacies are cemented in the playoffs:
“We’ll remember this season forever. I think the fans will remember all the special moments that have happened in this building, but we’re also smart enough to know history won’t remember us unless we take a big step forward in the playoffs and get to our first MLS Cup and hopefully win it. That’s what people really remember.”

Daniel Gazdag was also confident with the challenge ahead after last year’s playoff defeat at the hands of Covid-19 and NYCFC:
“I think we had a good run last year in the playoffs, at the end we were a little bit unlucky. This year we are better than last year. We are more experienced, and I think we have a better team, so we have a good chance to win the MLS Cup.”

News and notes:
The Union finished the 2022 season with 67 points, tied with LAFC for most in the league. LAFC won the Supporter’s Shield as they won 21 games this season, two more than the Union.
Daniel Gazdag finished the regular season with 22 Goals, good for second in MLS behind Hany Mukhtar’s 23 goals for Nashville. Gazdag has scored a goal in each of the Union’s last seven home games.
This game was Andre Blake’s 15th shutout of the season, most in MLS this season.
Philadelphia’s 72 goals scored and 26 allowed for a goal differential of +46, leading the league in all three categories. The 72 goals scored is also the 5th most for a team in a season in MLS history, and the 26 goals allowed are the fewest all time in a 34 game MLS season. The +46 goal differential is second best in league history behind only the 2019 LAFC +48 season.
Philadelphia’s next game will be in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the winner of the 4th seed New York Red Bulls vs. 5th seed FC Cincinnati first round matchup.

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