CHESTER, Pa. -- Once again, Jack McInerney played the role of hero for the Union.
Trailing by one and frantically peppering Joe Bendik and the Toronto FC goal in stoppage time, a scrum in the box found Conor Casey in traffic. Chipped wide, the ball magically landed on the foot of McInerney on the back post and the offensive dynamo didn’t miss, scoring the Union and Toronto to a 1-1 draw on Saturday at PPL Park.
“Conor played it off a cross and I was left wide open,” said McInerney, who now has a team-leading four goals on the season. “It was an easy tap-in.
“It’s a good feeling. The crowd was going crazy and I’m sure they all loved it. But that’s a game we have to win and looking back at this game later in the season, it’s going to be disappointing.”
The tie is the second in three games for the Union, who are now 0-1-2 in their last three games and 2-2-2 on the season. Toronto FC pushes its overall record to 1-2-3. Though they still got a point in the match, the Union players were unhappy.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t win,” said McInerney, who also had a goal called back shortly before he tied the game. “We should win that game every weekend and we will need to if we want to make the playoffs.”
Despite getting the late goal, the Union weren’t done. Shortly following the equalizer, Union sub Antoine Hoppenot broke in alone on goal but was unable to get his shot past Bendik, who finished the game with nine saves. Hoppenot struggled to find words after the game.
“I need to put that one in the back of the net,” Hoppenot said. “It’s one of those plays that will stay in my mind for a while. I should have just beat him. He came out really hard and if I just make a touch to his left or right, that ball is in the back of the net.”
The late offense was payoff for a game dominated by the Union. With 63.4 percent of possession and 18 attempts on goal throughout the contest, it seemed just a matter of time before the Union broke Bendik and Toronto.
But before the late-game heroics could take place, the Union fell asleep.
With an innocent and slow-developing overhead pass by Taylor Morgan in the 71st minute, Toronto broke the scoreless tie when Robert Earnshaw slipped through Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke on the backline, gathered the ball and lifted a clean chip shot over Zac MacMath for the late 1-0 lead.
“It was a hopeful ball that looked like a clear but ended up to Earnshaw, who I thought we were doing a good job containing,” Williams said. “We’ve seen the replay, we paused for a second and that’s all it took. He’s a sneaky guy.”
It was Earnshaw’s fifth goal of the season, tying him for the MLS lead in goals.
For the first time all season, Union coach John Hackworth implemented his big three forwards at the same time -- Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux and McInerney. It was also the first time since July 2, 2011, that the Union went without Michael and Gabe Farfan in the starting 11.
The lineup changes paid off in the form of possession but little else for the Union in the first half. Casey and Danny Cruz combined for the team’s best chance in the 27th minute, when Casey gained the box, cut to the center and ripped a right-footed shot that was pushed away by a diving Bendik. The rebound directed to the opposite side of the box, where Cruz collected it and took a shot of his own that was also saved by Bendik.
“Our whole team struggled to execute our game plan,” Hackworth said. “Our possession wasn’t the way we wanted it, though we had more of the ball. The rhythm and tempo wasn’t what we wanted. You have to give credit to Toronto for that.”
The Union finished the half with five attempts on goal, three on target and 65.5 percent of the possession. Toronto had just three attempts with none in on MacMath.
Keeping up the attacking pace in the second half, the Union continued where they left off in the 47th minute, getting a clean header off a free kick from McInerney, which forced Bendik to make a full-extension save.
"Joe Bendik was amazing for them, he made some unbelievable saves,” Hackworth said. “When it’s on the line in an opposing stadium, he had himself a day.”
Looking for offense, Hackworth called on Kleberson, making his MLS debut for Ray Gaddis. Shortly after entering the game, the newly acquired Brazilian nearly scored off a redirected shot from the top of the box and was the primary assist on Hoppenot’s breakaway.