Philadelphia Union (8-9-9, 33 points) at Toronto FC (9-10-6, 33 points)
What: Major League Soccer regular season match
When: Saturday, 2 p.m. (kickoff 2:08); Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.
TV: The Comcast Network featuring play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera and color analyst Peter Pappas
One down, one to go.
The Philadelphia Union took care of business at PPL Park with a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC on Wednesday night.
Following a short turnaround, the Union (8-9-9, 33 points) will travel to Toronto FC (9-10-6, 33 points) for the second leg of a home-and-home series Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at BMO Field.
But that’s the task.
“It’s strange,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said of playing Toronto FC again. “They’re the only team we haven’t played in the league. I think about it now, every team in the league we’ve seen once. There are some very good teams for sure, but we know we can play with anybody. This is the first time we saw Toronto and now we’re confident enough to know we can play with them. It’s a strange one to turn it around in a couple days here but it’ll be a challenge. Anytime you go on the road in this league, it’s the most difficult thing to do. We know they’ll be short handed a little bit with the red card and they’ll have to juggle some things but they’ll put some really good things on the field and we know it will be a fight at their place.”
Ashtone Morgan received a red card in the 77th minute for taking down Sebastien Le Toux outside the box.
Morgan will miss Saturday’s match, but Toronto FC still has plenty of firepower.
So do the Union.
Even without injured midfielder Vincent Nogueira and a number of players out for international duty – defender Carlos Valdes, goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi and midfielder Michael Lahoud – the Union continue to win and compile points.
It’s a testament to their depth.
“Our guys are confident,” Curtin said. “You can see it in the group – they’re close. It’s a close-knit group. They laugh and they’re having fun. They are enjoying things on the field which is important. I’m not a cheesy guy and saying they are all best friends and everything is perfect but there’s a core group of them that hang out together. I think that’s good. After a win you should go out together and have a great time. All the off the field stuff is very positive and it’s translating onto the field. We have good guys and again they are definitely becoming men for sure.”
Goalkeeper Zac MacMath was terrific and came up with the Union’s first clean sheet since a 3-0 victory at Chivas USA on May 31. With Mbolhi competing for Algeria, MacMath is likely to get another start.
What does MacMath expect to see from Toronto FC on Saturday?
“That they are very direct, obviously Michael (Bradley) is their engine and he’s a guy that wants the ball, wants to be in control and wants to score,” MacMath said. “It’s important that we do a good job of taking care of Michael. If we can do that, we give ourselves a really good chance of getting another win on Saturday.”
Playing the same club is going to be more than a physical challenge – it’ll be a mental challenge as well.
The Union will be prepared.
“It’s different, but it’s good for us since we won the first game we kind of know what to expect and so maybe we are coming in with a bit more confidence than them,” said Sebastien Le Toux. “We stand on two wins (in MLS) and they stand on two defeats, so we need to go in there looking at minimum for a tie, but we are going after a win. We always play to win and so right now we need to take that into the next game and do our best to win it.”
What do the Union need to do to win two against Toronto? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org