Match previews / Union

Match preview: Toronto FC vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderrow

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 11-3-5, 38 points) vs Toronto FC (12-2-5, 41 points)

What: 2020 MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Saturday, October 24th at 7:30 p.m.

Watch: PHL 17, ESPN+

Whistle: Referee: Jair Marrufo Assistant Referees: Brian Dunn, Kyle Atkins 4th Official: Luis Arroyo VAR: Daniel Radford

It hasn’t been a long time since Toronto and Philadelphia last faced off in Hartford, Connecticut, with Toronto coming away with a 2-1 win after a hot start from the Union.

This match may be the biggest of the season for both sides, as they enter as the top two teams in both the Eastern Conference and MLS as a whole.

A Union win would see them pull even on points, with Philadelphia holding the goal difference tie-breaker.

Scouting Report: Toronto FC

Toronto has been in these positions before. They’ve been leading the Eastern Conference for most of the 2020 COVID-19 season, and are no strangers to big games after trips to MLS Cup in three of the last four seasons.

Some of their big names may have changed, but their winning culture is still intact. Sebastian Giovinco has been replaced with Alejandro Pozuelo, and Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have missed large chunks of the season due to injury. Similar to the Union, Toronto is able to find ways to win even without their strongest 11 on the field.

So with Altidore injured, who’s been scoring the goals for Toronto during their nine-game unbeaten streak? Rising U.S.-Canadian star Ayo Akinola has put in 8 goals this year for the Reds, while only appearing in 13 games. Akinola has been dealing with an injury as late, so it is possible we’ll see Patrick Mullins to get the start tomorrow night. Also providing a chunk of Toronto’s goals is Pozuelo, who’s scored eight on the year and assisted on another 10.  To round out their attacking group, Toronto brought in Argentine playmaker Pablo Piatti, who has tallied four goals and four assists through 17 games in his first MLS season.

In the midfield, Toronto sports some familiar faces from their MLS Cup runs in the past year. Canadian Jonathan Osorio has been a constant, helping keep possession for the Reds and sometimes helping set up attacks. His midfield partner is American Marky Delgado, who helps in defense and controlling the pace of the game. Longtime Toronto captain Michael Bradley could also make an appearance after he returned from injury last week.

Defense may be the weakest unit for Toronto on the field. Toronto does sport a strong right back in Richie Laryea who likes to get up field and attack but has the speed to recover defensively. His speed also helps Toronto overload the right side in attack. On the left is Auro Jr, who also sports a lot of speed but does not get up into the attack as much as Lareya on the right. The center back pairing for a majority of the year has been Chris Mavinga, who is more physical and speedy than his counterpart Omar Gonzalez. Mavinga is another Toronto player dealing with injury, as the Reds hope he can go tomorrow night. If he is unable, expect Laurent Ciman to slot in alongside Gonzalez.  Gonzalez has been the weakest link, with his lack of speed being exposed by Sergio Santos in the last matchup of these two teams.

Injury Report: Out: Justin Morrow, Achara, Jozy Altidore, Alex Bono, Eriq Zavaleta. Questionable: Chris Mavinga, Ayo Akinola

Scouting report: Union

Last time out the Union may have gotten away with some luck on the road in New England. But, coming out of a road match where you play your 4th choice defensive midfielder with a win is always a good thing. Even better news for the Union is that Jose “El Brujo” Martinez is expected to be available for the match and could start or feature off the bench. With the return of Martinez, and Alejandro Bedoya from yellow card accumulation, the Union midfield should return to its diamond shape with Martinez at the base, Jamiro Monteiro and Bedoya in the middle and Brenden Aaronson leading the attack.

In the back, expect the same starting back line that featured Monday night. Jacob Glesnes and Mark McKenzie have been a solid pairing in recent weeks and have developed a nice chemistry. Jack Elliott has returned to fitness after starting in midfield Monday night and should be on the bench as a center back and midfield option. Kai Wagner and Ray Gaddis are back to full fitness, allowing the Union to play with their first choice back 4 for one of the few times this year.

A group who needs to re-find their form for Philadelphia is their strikers. In fact, Union strikers have only contributed one of the team’s last six goals, with Sergio Santos finding the net against Montreal as their last goal. Kacper Przybylko hasn’t scored in more than a month, with his last goal coming against Montreal on September 20th, while Andrew Wooten hasn’t provided any goals off the bench at all. The recently returned Cory Burke is looking to bring some life, and goals into the group to get them out of their funk. If Philadelphia wants to challenge for the top seed and the Supporters Shield, their strikers will need to find some offense.

Injury Report: Out: Warren Creavalle.

Key Matchup:  Midfield fight

The first time these teams met in Hartford, it was a battle of 2 similar midfields. The Union will look to be revitalized with the hopefully return of Martinez and the return of Bedoya. Toronto will look to main man Pozuelo to keep the offense humming with Osorio or Bradley controlling the pace of the game.

Player to Watch: Kacper Przybylko

Przybylko hasn’t scored in a while and needs to get the monkey off his back before the playoff push for Philadelphia. Last year in big games at home, Przybylko was almost always a lock to score, scoring against Atlanta and LAFC last season. If Przybylko is looking for a stage to re-emerge, Philadelphia would love for it to be this one.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 1-0 Toronto

A high stakes game that starts cagey and physical breaks open in the second half. The Union midfield and defense welcome the sight of Jose Martinez and Sergio Santos gets a big goal for the Union late in the second half.

Odds:
Philadelphia: +175
Toronto:  +163
Draw: +230

19 Comments

  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    I will be there. Excited to be there to watch a game, especially this game. Need a solid effort to get points. Should be fun!

    • Get there on the early side (but obviously not too early). Last game it took about 15 minutes to get through temperature screening/security checks.
      .
      What section are you in? We’re in 126 (which will feel different from the usual 127).

  2. I have to admit I am not overly optimistic. Toronto has that combination of talent, coaching and pedigree we aspire to have one day. The last game, they basically controlled the whole match. I am very interested to see if Curtin does anything difference in terms of tactical wrinkles (not asking for a weird lineup or formation) because the way we stayed back and absorbed all their pressure last game was painful to watch and does not give us a high chance to win.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      This is true. One of the draw backs of a counter attacking strategy is, when a team is genuinely good in possession as Toronto are, it makes the game look woefully one-sided. Let’s hope they make an early statement to force Toronto’s hand.

    • In an article posted today at 11:30 am on MLS’s website, Tom BOgert commented that playoff games would begin the weekend of Nov 20-22.
      .
      There have been no official announcements that I have noticed past the structure and the scheduling of the final for Dec. 12.
      .
      If — and Bogert did not say this I am guessing it — Bogert was referencing the quarterfinals, and not the Eastern Conference play-in games, that would put the play-ins on the weekend of Sat Nov 14, Conf 1/4s Nov20-22, Conf 1/2s Nov 27-29, Conf finals, Dec 6-7 & MLS Cup as announced Dec 12. That’s just my best guess; I know nothing.

      • Apologies.
        .
        No idea why this comment has appeared here where it does not belong.
        .
        Again, my apologies.

    • True, but a rested Captain and Warlock should help.
      I’d like to see Fontana start as withdrawn striker.

    • Press the shit out of them….they are still an MLS side and will turn the ball over………..don’t absorb and meet them at midfield……that plays into their hands. Make everything uncomfortable for them…….think of what Lyon did to City in the CL………

  3. It looks like the USMNT has a game scheduled in Swansea against Wales on November 12. I hope that MLS is taking potential quarantine time into account when scheduling playoff games. Of course, knowing MLS, they’ll just schedule the playoff games that weekend so the playoffs won’t feature top players on international duty. It will make MLS Cup as meaningful as the Supporters Shield this season.

    • In an article posted today at 11:30 am on MLS’s website, Tom BOgert commented that playoff games would begin the weekend of Nov 20-22.
      .
      There have been no official announcements that I have noticed past the structure and the scheduling of the final for Dec. 12.
      .
      If — and Bogert did not say this I am guessing it — Bogert was referencing the quarterfinals, and not the Eastern Conference play-in games, that would put the play-ins on the weekend of Sat Nov 14, Conf 1/4s Nov20-22, Conf 1/2s Nov 27-29, Conf finals, Dec 6-7 & MLS Cup as announced Dec 12. That’s just my best guess; I know nothing.

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      All indications are that this will be a euro only camp due to the rona.

  4. The Union Jack says:

    MLSSoccer.com reporting the Supporters’ Shield will be awarded this year to the team with the most points. Hardware is on the line this weekend.

  5. Are concessions open in the stadium?

    • I was at the Montreal game and there were 4 stands open, including Chickie’s and Pete’s. Must buy meal (pretzels and popcorn don’t count) in order to buy beer. 2 drink limit per transaction, no draft beers.

  6. That maybe one of the best half’s of footy I have ever seen the Union play…….next 15 are huge.

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