Match previews

Match preview: Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo Credit: Paul Rudderow

Who: Toronto FC (4th place, 16 points, 5-3-1) vs. Philadelphia Union (1st place, 20 points, 6-3-2)
What: 2019 regular season game
Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Ont.
When: Saturday, May 11, at 3pm
Watch: PHL17
Whistle: Ramy Toucha; Jeremy Kies, TJ Zablocki; Pierre-Luc Lauziere

In their last match, just over two months ago, the Union lost rather embarrassingly at home against Toronto FC, 3-1. Now, the Union are first in the Eastern Conference and playing much better soccer. However, Toronto, though tired heading into this weekend, is in a bit of a desperate situation, eager to score a goal.

Scouting report: Toronto FC

This will be Toronto’s third match in one week. Last Saturday, Toronto went to Orlando to win 2-0, then headed up to Atlanta to lose 2-0 on Wednesday. The match against Atlanta United was rough for Toronto, who recorded absolutely no shots on target in the loss.

Surprising because Alejandro Pozuelo is a true play-maker and supporting striker. He puts as many shots on goal per game as Zlatan while collecting assists and being one of the team’s leading play makers. Pozuelo may not be able to replace Giovinco, but he’s become a crucial member of Toronto’s team and is a dangerous player that could be problematic for the Union’s back line.

Michael Bradley is someone we’ve all seen before and understand his style of play. When Bradley drops into the opposing team’s back line, he’s trying to stretch them vertically. If nobody steps up to press him, he can move the ball horizontally and then hit a cross to the far side. He can manipulate a defense and position himself exactly where he needs to to help score, and will be a problem for Philadelphia’s midfield and back line.

Both Pozuelo and Bradley are two of Toronto’s best players and have played in both matches this week. The rest of Greg Vanney’s lineup was rotated heavily, with a lighter lineup against Atlanta, and most likely, a stronger and more rested lineup against Philadelphia this weekend. Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, and Chris Mavinga didn’t play on Wednesday in the midfield. It showed in their lack of shots.

Toronto featured a loose 4-4-2 defensive shape that got pulled apart with ease in transition and occasionally broke down, allowing runs and long balls to get behind the back line. However, Osorio and Delgado will likely be returning to midfield and the tables will turn. Toronto will be extremely active and very good at finding any pockets of space between the Union’s defensive and midfield lines.

  • Injury report: QUESTIONABLE – Jozy Altidore (hamstring), Drew Moor (leg)
  • Suspended: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Riding high from last week’s 6-1 victory and their top standing in the Eastern Conference, the Union have been feeling pretty good about themselves — with reason. This has been some of the best soccer we’ve seen in Philadelphia for a while now, with results to show for it. However, with various injuries adding up and trades this past week, head coach Jim Curtin really has to be smart in order to keep his team in high spirits and standing. Curtin will likely play a 4-2-3-1 formation.

With both Andre Blake and Matt Freese injured, Carlos Miguel Coronel should be in net for Philadelphia. Coronel has been playing very well for the Steel, blocking two penalty kicks and many other dramatic saves, but hasn’t spent much time in the MLS. In front of him, with Mark McKenzie still recovering from appendectomy surgery, expect a similar back line to last week’s. Last week’s lineup of Auston Trusty, Raymon Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner went surprisingly well. While Elliott and Wagner are in their usual positions, Trusty and Gaddis are not, but still stopped New England’s attack, making it almost look easy. They will be further tested by Toronto’s ability to pull apart a defense, and as long as they can limit their little mistakes, this back line should hold strong.

The midfield “trapezoid” might also be at a bit of a loss without Brenden Aaronson, who is listed as questionable after a hip injury early last week. Most notable for Philadelphia is the return of Marco Fabian from injury this weekend. He’s a natural fit for the Union’s No. 10 position and was able to dismantle Toronto’s defense in March, so hopefully he’s fit enough to do it again this weekend.

Haris Medunjanin has been a solid anchor in the midfield the past few matches, making solid passes and generating attacks. What’s even better is that recently, we’ve seen more hustle from Medunjanin, tracking back more to help the younger defense.

Alejandro Bedoya has been earning his captain’s armband, working hard for his team offensively and defensively, making beautiful passes and doing everything he can to create goals and shut down the other team’s attacks. Bedoya has really found his groove with Philadelphia this season and it’s obvious why he’s the captain.

Jamiro Monteiro has had a bit of a mixed season, while limited, and even though he’s a very skilled player, he’s seemed a little lost with the Union. If last week proved anything, it’s that Monteiro and Fafa Picault are very similar players who can step on each other’s toes when on the same sideline.

Kacper Przylbylko seems to be the Union’s go-to starting striker now. After some matches with the Steel and some goals for the Union, he’s effectively replaced Cory Burke. Przybylko is almost more of a midfielder, always eager to move up and down the field to create goal scoring opportunities and working well with Gaddis and Bedoya. Don’t be surprised to see him up top this weekend.

  • Injury report: OUT – Andre Blake (hip), Matt Freese (abdominal), Mark McKenzie (appendectomy); QUESTIONABLE – Anthony Fontana (ankle), Brenden Aaronson (hip)
  • Suspended: None
Key matchup

Michael Bradley vs. Jamiro Monteiro/Marco Fabian. The key matchup to watch will be Michael Bradley against the central attacking midfielder, either Monteiro or Fabian. There’s always a chance Monteiro moves deeper and Marco Fabián starts at the point, but given how well Monteiro did against Montreal, Curtin may pit him against Bradley directly. As the man that starts many of Toronto’s best moves, the Union midfield will have to keep Bradley occupied throughout the entire match.

Player to watch

Marco Fabian. The return of Marco Fabian has been highly anticipated by Philadelphia fans, especially with so many injuries. He’s had a roller coaster of a season, between suspensions and injuries he hasn’t seen much playing time for the Union, but he’s still a highly skilled player with a lot of potential. Plus, a rematch between Fabian and Bradley is always highly anticipated by local and national fans alike.

Prediction

Philadelphia Union 2-1 Toronto FC. A long awaited rematch for the Union, who are playing their best soccer this season, should go in favor of Philadelphia. As long as defensive mistakes are limited and the midfield is consistent in their ability to move the ball, the Union can capitalize on a desperate and tired Toronto. However, Toronto isn’t far behind in the standings, and desperation in skilled players can always lead to a goal for Toronto. If Philadelphia wants to remain at the top of the table, they’ll need a win this weekend.

15 Comments

  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Perfect time to get Toronto back for opening day. Win this and people really start paying attention. Let’s do it!

  2. Optimistic! I am going for a draw.

  3. Peanut Gallery says:

    Fabián’s fitness level may be a key factor. Assuming he starts, will he be effective when the lungs and legs start to feel it?
    .
    With Aaronson out, Curtin has some interesting decisions to make. He seems to be pulling all of the right strings lately. May that continue!

  4. I want to see Bradley frustrated to the point of boiling over. That would bring great joy to my weekend.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Ahhh… but when he acts like a baby, will the ref just let him do it. My sources say probably.

  5. I would would stick Monteiro to Pozuelo like Old Bay on crab fries. Let Miro snuff him entirely out of the game. Then have Fabiàn ride Bradley like a burro. Meanwhile Medunjanin pings some long passes to Kacper and Picault (and Santos and Ilsinho, when they come on as second half subs). Should be interesting.

  6. I’m sure this game has been circled on Union calendars for some time now. This seems like the one to show who really is tops in the East at this point of the season. That said, while I really want a win, it would likely be hard to complain about a hard fought draw on the road.

  7. Anything less than a draw would be a failure, game plan is key here, options are there for the taking. My prediction is that the union will dominate this game.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      A failure? On the road against a team within a game of you in the standings in the toughest road league in the world? Failure is a strong word. Disappointing and a missed opportunity if they don’t play well? Sure. A failure? Not unless the wheels come completely off.

    • Home field advantage is off the charts difficult to overcome in MLS, more so than almost any other major soccer league in the world.
      .
      Best to set your expectations low in any case, and even lower when the travel is longer.

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