Union looking to pass the unique test that will be Toronto FC at home this Saturday
This one is a much different test.
Whereas last week the Union pulled off a road upset against a playoff team, this week's challenge is beating a struggling squad as the favored home side.
You could make a strong case that this Philadelphia team plays better when facing adversity. It shows in the 5-6-4 road record that included solid wins at Colorado, Vancouver, Chicago, and D.C. United.
But playing at home in a winnable game against a "lesser" opponent is different for a gritty, blue collar team. Instead of running the counter attack and nicking set piece goals, you're tasked with creating from the run of play and winning the possession battle.
It's a contrasting mindset from the approach that earned three crucial points in Kansas City.
"I think tactically we have to approach the game a little bit differently," said manager John Hackworth, who opted for a 4-2-3-1 shape in the win against Sporting. "Last Friday we were the underdog, and quite honestly, we're pretty good in that role. But this week people are going to say we're at home, that we have to win to keep pace with the playoff race. The pressure is truly on us this week, but that's okay, because I think anybody in our locker room would want it that way with four games to play."
Consider the pair of 1-1 draws with Toronto earlier this season. They were ugly games that could have easily been losses. Philadelphia was considered the favorite in both contests and scraped through with two out of six possible points.
Oddly enough, each game included the following: an opening goal from Toronto, a TFC red card, and a stoppage time equalizer from Jack McInerney.
On April 13, Robert Earnshaw scored in the 71st minute and Ashtone Morgan was sent off in the 88th minute.
McInerney equalized in the 93rd.
On June 1, Doneil Henry was red carded in the 41st minute and Jonathan Osorio scored in the 66th.
McInerney equalized in the 91st.
The catalyst for both goals was a poorly defended Sheanon Williams long-throw.
"We've (looked at those games), but also looked at a lot of Toronto in the last few weeks," Hackworth said. "They have a little bit of a different lineup and roster from our first two matchups and we played them earlier in the year. One point is that I hope Jack McInerney can get back on the score sheet. He's had success against Toronto and certainly we feel like it would be a great time for him to break out and get one, or two, or however many he can put in the back of the net."
Toronto is fresh off a 4-1 win against D.C. United, but don't look too much into that game. Ben Olsen decided to rest his starters ahead of the this week's shock win in the U.S. Open Cup final.
For what it's worth, TFC thrashed United's second team.
"Right now I still think that two victories and a draw would certainly put us (in the post season)," Hackworth explained. "You look at the math and you look at some of the other results and you think that seven points is going to get you there. We're just trying to take it one game at a time. This game is our second to last home game, and it's one where we have to put a premium on, unlike when I was up here last week and saying that a draw, a result against Kansas City would have been okay. This is a game where we really need to maximize the points."
What do you think the gameplan should be against Toronto? Leave it below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com