With Toronto officially eliminated from the MLS Cup playoff race on Wednesday and the Union still hanging on by a mathematical thread, we could see a wide open game on Saturday when the Union travel to Toronto FC.
The Union, winless in their last six games, will need to see an improvement in the finishing department as it’s that lack of cutting edge which has been costing them deserved points lately. Defensively, they have kept the opposition scoring down for the most part, including their last game – a 0-0 draw at New England.
The club will arrive in Toronto very healthy and feeling confident after a good week and a half of solid training. Extensive work was done on the final pass and on finishing. Saturday is the day to see if that hard work comes together on the field.
The Union will also have Carlos Valdés and Gabriel Gómez back from international duty. Valdés played a full 90 during Colombia’s convincing 4-0 win over Uruguay last week, but sat out Tuesday's victory in Chile, which is better news for the Union as he'll be more rested. Carlos has had a very strong second season in MLS, and has served as a good on the field captain, leading by example.
Gómez, on the other hand, did not play for Panama in last week’s World Cup Qualifier defeat in Canada, but he did go the full 90 this past Tuesday in the return game, which Panama won 2-0.
The Union will travel to Canada this Saturday to face a Toronto FC side which lost to Chicago at home on Wednesday, 2-1. That loss officially eliminated Toronto from the playoff chase as the club’s winless streak reached eight games.
Philadelphia though will likely see a different team on Saturday than the one that Chicago saw. Neither Ryan Johnson nor Terry Dunfield played for Toronto on Wednesday as both were coming off of international duty.
One would expect to see those guys back in the lineup on Saturday, assuming they didn't pick up any injury while away with their national teams.
It's been another long season in Toronto. A team that made moves to improve their defense has given up the most goals in the league with 50.
They started the year with three healthy designated players but can't make that claim now. Julian DeGuzman was traded to Dallas, while injuries claimed top scorer Danny Koevermans and more recently Torsten Frings. They added DP Eric Hassli in a trade with Vancouver but that hasn't done much so far for Toronto.
Toronto Head Coach Paul Mariner, who took over during the season in place of Aron Winter, had some strong comments following his club's most recent loss. He is looking now for players to step up to show him they want to be a part of next year’s team. The guess here is that Toronto will once again have a lot of new faces when the next MLS season kicks off.
The Union are also looking for players to step up in these final games. The club is trying to win every game and improve on their performances, game by game. They are also looking towards the immediate future which is the 2013 season. Who wants to remain with the Union? The opportunity for the players to prove themselves is here over the next nine games, beginning Saturday in Toronto.
The schedule won’t get any easier after Saturday. Of the eight games remaining, seven are versus teams in the top five of the Eastern Conference. But one thing is for sure, there is always a lot to play for.