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Preview: Union at Toronto FC

What: Union at Toronto FC

When: 1pm EST

Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Canada

TV: CSN

Referee: Silviu Petrescu (MLS Career: 54 games; FC/gm: 27.4; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 8; pens: 7)

What looks, sounds and feels like a six-game winless streak but is worse?

An eight-game winless streak.

Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC will put their respective inability to win soccer matches on the line Saturday as they face off for the third time in 2012. Toronto won the first match to end a nine game winless streak and the Union got revenge in July with a 3-0 victory. Since that win, the Union have secured a total of nine league points. TFC has picked up eleven.

While both teams have struggled, picking out the Union’s shortcomings is quite a bit easier than figuring out what is going on north of the border. As Darren O’Dea said the other day: “When you’ve one or two players off the pace you can carry them through at times, but when you have five, six, seven eight players, you have no chance.”

For Philadelphia, Zac MacMath may be the only player who has shown an extended dip in form this season. Everybody else has been incredibly consistent in their successes and struggles. In fact, the most frustrating part of the 2012 season for the Union might be just how not-terrible so many players have been. Instead of having players “off the pace,” the Union haven’t found anybody willing to step the pace up. When the team has needed somebody to step forward and take control of a match, the call has too often be left unanswered.

Tactical adjustments will be minor

After fourteen days off, Philadelphia will likely come out with few tactical changes. The major adjustments should be in how players understand and execute their roles. It has been clear for a while that the Union wingers are not maximizing their potential contributions to the team’s offense. Whether it’s trouble reading the play out of midfield, being uncertain as to how they interact with the central striker, or thinking they have to isolate and attack defenders, the wings have been more conspicuously absent than a Jurgen Klinsmann game plan over the past two months.

Waking up the wings

Not only does poor wing play heap pressure on the central striker (and the strain has shown, whether that striker is Jack McInerney or Antoine Hoppenot), it limits the involvement of the outside backs. Dangerous wide players force the opposing midfielders to drop back in support, which opens space for Sheanon Williams and Gabriel Farfan to push forward and act as point men for the offense. Both Williams and Farfan (and Raymon Gaddis) are more dangerous offensive players than Brian Carroll or Michael Lahoud, so pushing them forward and letting the central midfielders stay deeper and sweep counterattacks is beneficial for the mythical creature known as the Philadelphia Union attack.

Set pieces

John Hackworth spoke about set plays at length this week and said the team lacked service and targets. While he said the team lacked size, he didn’t lay blame for the team’s struggles solely on their hereditary shortcomings. Indeed, size would help, but miscommunications in the back and a troubling lack of movement on corner kicks have also created a situation where opposing teams feel that they can be more aggressive on set pieces while Philly shows a marked fear of making mistakes (which usually leads to… making mistakes).

Adu and Marfan together

Two players with above average distribution skills who want to be on the ball a lot — Is it a gift or a curse? Thus far, it hasn’t worked out well, with Adu’s influence on games coming more from his free kicks than his contributions during the run of play. Farfan has had a set of standout performances sprinkled around reminders that he is still learning his position and often asked to carry the offense out of midfield by himself.

Much like Planeteers, these players should be able to work together to create space for each other. Why it hasn’t happened consistently is anybody’s guess, but with their skills, the onus is on the players and staff to maximize both the individual and combined talents of two guys who are quite capable of running an offense.

Early energy

It’s difficult to impose yourself on a game when it feels like you’re in a rut. So both coaches will use their full arsenal of motivational powers to take control of the first fifteen minutes on Saturday. Look for a lot of action and energy early, as a quick goal against could deflate either team faster than a Dan Borislow story kills the post-Olympic soccer buzz. The Union, in particular, have struggled after giving up the first goal; they have four points from the 12 matches when the other team has scored first.

Lineups

Union

  • GK: MacMath
  • DEF: Williams, Okugo, Valdes, Garfan
  • MID: Carroll, Marfan, Adu
  • FWD: Cruz, Hoffman, McInerney

TFC

  • GK: Milos Kocic
  • DEF: Jeremy Hall, Richard Eckersley, Darren O’Dea, Logan Emory
  • MID: Andrew Wiedeman, Terry Dunfield, Aaron Maund, Eric Avila
  • FWD: Eric Hassli, Luis Silva

Injuries

Union

  • OUT: FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms)
  • QUESTIONABLE: DF Gabriel Farfan (L big toe sprain)

TFC

  • OUT: GK Stefan Frei (L lower leg); FW Danny Koevermans (L knee ACL tear); DF Ty Harden (lower abdominal strain); MF Torsten Frings (L hip)
  • QUESTIONABLE: FW Eric Hassli (rib contusion); DF Doneil Henry (L knee tendinosis)

Suspended next yellow

Union

  • Gabriel Gomez
  • Michael Farfan

TFC

  • Torsten Frings

3 Comments

  1. I like your preferred lineup. If I see two holding midfielders start tomorrow my head might explode.

  2. What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It positively helpful and it has aided me out loads.

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