The Philadelphia Union will look to avenge an early season loss to Toronto FC on Saturday as they near the midpoint of their regular season. Although the Union find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with just 11 points and a 3-8-2 record, the club is coming off of a 1-0 victory in a friendly over Scottish power Celtic and have played very well of late.
Toronto enters Saturday’s match with loads of confidence as the third place team in the East. They carry an eight game unbeaten streak into PPL Park and haven't lost since May 1 against Real Salt Lake. Most recently, Toronto defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 at BMO Field on a 61st minute goal from Fuad Ibrahim, giving the Reds 22 points after starting 2-4-0.
Toronto is led by Canadian National Team star and MLS All-Star First XI Dwayne De Rosario, who leads the Reds in both goals and assists this season. He has netted eight goals less than half way through the season, while dishing out three helpers. De Ro has also proven to be a threat on set pieces, and the Union are well aware of this aspect of his game.
In the previous match between these two teams, De Rosario scored both goals for Toronto in a 2-1 win over the Union. Both goals were off set pieces; the first came from a free kick that Union keeper Chris Seitz mishandled, and the second was a late penalty kick that gave the Reds the 2-1 victory.
The other threat for the Reds is forward Chad Barrett, who has four goals and an assist this season. Speedy forward O’Brian White will miss Saturday’s match due to illness and Argentine midfielder Martin Saric will miss the match due to a quad injury.
With these two players out for the game on Saturday, Toronto may work in Mista, a 31-year-old Spanish forward who was recently signed as the club’s DP in the international transfer window. Toronto manager Preki stated that Mista will not start, but he will most likely see some minutes. With the two injuries, Mista just may see a lot of minutes as he hopes to get Toronto out of their scoring woes. Mista’s skill on the ball and finishing touch will be a great addition for Toronto.
Despite their offensive struggles, Toronto is one of the best defensive teams in the league. They have compiled six shutouts in the league and have only given up three goals during their eight-game unbeaten streak. They are a tough, physical team that is very confident defensively.
The Union, in need of a victory, will look to break down this stingy defense on Saturday afternoon. Philadelphia are coming off of a 1-0 victory over Celtic in which they outplayed the Scots for much of the match. The Union are certainly capable of moving the ball around quickly, slicing through the Toronto defense, and opening up the flanks for service into the box. If the club can create scoring opportunities, Sebastian Le Toux and Danny Mwanga know how to finish them.
Defensively, the Union must maintain their shape and organization in the back. They will be successful if they can keep De Rosario from getting too much space with the ball and limit the fouls in their third. The Toronto attack isn’t overpowering, but free kicks in Philadelphia’s half will enable Toronto to get numbers forward and attack the goal.
If the Union continue to play as well as they's been playing in their past few home games and can avoid defensive lapses, they'll be in good shape on Saturday.