"The pressure is truly on us this week. But that is OK; I think anybody in our locker room would want it that way with four games to play.”
– Union manager John Hackworth
That’s all that’s left in a regular season in which the Philadelphia Union has scratched and clawed its way to what could be the franchise’s best ever win total in history.
All that stands in the way is a feisty Toronto FC side that the Union has been forced to settle for 1-1 draws in two previous meetings this season. In the first match played between the pair at PPL Park in April, Toronto used a slow methodical game plan that frustrated the generally attack-oriented style manager John Hackworth has implemented this season.
It was a style that looked to be annoyingly effective for TFC until forward Jack McInerney pounced in stoppage time to preserve a point for the Union.
A point no one in the Union locker room postgame was happy to receive.
McInerney has been good against the Reds this season however, scoring in both meetings. And although Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen’s side has had a much different look to its on-field personnel in recent weeks, many like Hackworth hope Jack Mac can get himself back to the scoring prowess he displayed earlier this season -- the same one he’s been displaying in recent training sessions.
“We have also looked at a lot of Toronto in the last few weeks, said Hackworth. “As I alluded to earlier, they are a little different in line up and in roster then they were our first two match-ups, and we played them earlier in the year. One point I hope, is I hope Jack McInerney can get back on the scoring sheet. He has 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.”
Listed as questionable is TFC forward Robert Earnshaw due to injury (right calf strain), who was the catalyst in Toronto's lone goal in April. However, earlier this week Nelsen told MLSSoccer.com: “Earnie is back now in training; he has had a couple of really good days, so he should be available for Saturday.”
A plus for the Union should Nelsen's claim be just a bluff, though Earnshaw isn’t the only name on the roster to have to worry about, Hackworth noted.
Their roster has been shuffled a little bit,” said Hackworth. “Bright Dike coming in scoring a goal last week for them [in a 4-1 win over D.C. United] was really important. Obviously they are coming off of a good win against D.C. They are going to be confident. Coming out here, we have had two tough games with them already. So this one is a tough game for us, for a lot of ways, I know Ryan Nelsen is going to have his team prepared…and those players have a lot to prove. So it is going to be tough for us.”
Bottom line is that the Union and Toronto FC are two clubs coming off huge wins – two sides with renewed confidence coming to a head Saturday at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).
However, only one of those teams is playing to ensure its campaign doesn’t end on the final day of MLS’ regular season.
What do you think the Union’s game plan will be against Toronto? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org