With what could be the Philadelphia Union’s biggest match of the regular season slated for Saturday night against Toronto FC at Subaru Park, Head Coach Jim Curtin addressed the media about how the club is preparing for the Eastern Conference. Here are a few of the key takeaways from the presser.
In a season as unusual as this has been the Union have played in what most would consider a “big game” more once in 2020. They used the pressure most would feel with a “big game” and turned it into a uniquely Philadelphia identity this season; beginning with their opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament against NYCFC. Their strong run in Orlando was propelled by the Union’s big game mentality that pushed them all the way to the semi-finals. They have continued this mentality into phase two of the season relaunch with Curtin stating that they never take their opponents lightly and the importance of taking home these three points.
There are of course a few differences with the match this weekend. The Union are undefeated at Subaru Park this season, yet this is the first time they will face a top four Eastern Conference team at home. It is said that if you want to be the best you have to beat the best, which could not be truer than this weekend. The winner will walk away at the top of the table in the East, in the league, and have the best chance to hold that position down the final stretch of the season. Though Toronto came away with the win when they last met a few short weeks ago, don’t expect the Union to shy away. This group is excited for the familiar challenge and feel that when they play their game, they can beat any team in the MLS.
A lot has changed since these two clubs faced off in Connecticut at the beginning of the month. The Union have regained Jack Elliot from injury to help bolster the center back rotation as well as striker Cory Burke who made his season debut against the Revolution on Monday. Since their last match Brenden Aaronson also went from a young talent to the newest American making the jump to Europe to join RB Salzburg after the end of this season. He will surely have an added spotlight on him in this match up. Brenden was well contained last match by Jonathan Osorio and Marco Delgado, the only two players who ran more than Bedoya and Aaronson in the match. The now 20-year-old Aaronson will face an entirely different challenge on Saturday with TFC’s Michael Bradley returning to action, providing a veteran presence that will have midfielder’s hands full.
How to contain TFC
The Union know this opponent well and the challenge they face ahead in the battle for top position. Toronto is well coached team with Greg Vanney at the helm, and with a really talented roster to boot this is the best team the Union have faced all season. Curtin knows his group will have to play nearly perfect on the day in order to come away with three points, but his game plan is realistic and relies on the whole group rather than any one player. Toronto has an assortment of talent with league MVP candidate Alejandro Pozuelo, Pablo Piatti, Osorio, and Michael Bradley in the lineup. Beating Toronto begins with containing Pozuelo and though they know it is impossible to contain Toronto for a full 90 minutes the game plan in place should be enough. It begins with limiting the space they have, limiting the areas on the field that they are touching the ball, and in the situation that they do have the ball it is a team effort to always have players running at them and pressing. This Union team prides itself on being a cohesive 11 players on the field, and you see that everyone buys into the belief that their 11 can beat any superstar.
You can look for the Union to face off against Toronto FC at Subaru Park this Saturday, October 24th at 7:30pm EST when they make a push for the top of the table. The match will be broadcast on PHL17 as well as PhiladelphiaUnion.com.