Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union (18-10-5, 64 points, first place in the Eastern Conference) vs. Toronto FC (9-7-17, 34 points, 13th place in the Eastern Conference)

What: 2022 MLS Regular Season (Week 34)

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When:  Sunday, October 9, 2:30 p.m. (kick-off 2:55 p.m.)

Watch: PHL17

The Philadelphia Union’s 2022 regular season comes to a close on Sunday afternoon with a home matchup against Toronto FC.

For the Union, much is still at stake.  A win secures first place in the Eastern Conference and a first round bye in the MLS Cup playoffs.  Anything less than a win for Philly, though, and CF Montreal could snag first place by beating Inter Miami.

Toronto FC was eliminated from playoff contention in mid-September.  With that said, Toronto FC is one of 5 teams to have dealt the Union a regular season loss in 2022 (2-1 at BMO Field early in the season) and they will certainly be looking to play spoiler to the Union’s first place aspirations.

Scouting Report: Toronto FC

“Get the ball to the Italians!” – Phil Weston, Kicking & Screaming (2005)

That was more or less Bob Bradley’s plan once Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi arrived this summer, and it more or less worked.  At least for a moment.  Upon Insigne’s and Bernardeschi’s insertion into the lineup, Toronto begin a five-game unbeaten run (3W-0L-2D).

To be fair, Toronto also brought in fellow Italian Domenico Criscito (D) from Genoa in July, as well as Canadian international Mark Anthony-Kaye from Colorado, both of whom helped significantly.  However, the play of Insigne and Bernardeschi was the true catalyst for their brief turnaround.

However, things just sort of fell apart for Toronto after that. Among the weak points was goalkeeper Alex Bono, who simply was not up to snuff in the later half of the year.  That led to to Bob Bradley making the switch to Quentin Westberg, who will most likely be in net on Sunday against the Union.

Despite a disappointing end result (Toronto will finish in 13th place in the Eastern Conference regardless of the match outcome on Sunday), Toronto will field a strong lineup on Sunday that will be no pushover for the Union.

Insigne and Bernardeschi will look to wreak havoc on the wings being serviced by a veteran group of midfielders, including former U.S. international Michael Bradley in central midfield and the aforementioned Mark-Anthony Kaye at left-outside mid.

Lined up defensively is outside back Domenico Criscito and the center-back duo of Shane O’Neil and Chris Mavinga.  Toronto will be missing regular starter and Canadian international Richie Laryea at outside back due to yellow-card accumulation.

Injury Report/Suspension Report: Doneil Henry (Out, Lower Body), Jonathan Osorio (Out, Upper Body), Richie Laryea (Out, Yellow card accumulation)

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

The Union are coming off of their worst performance of the 2022 regular season: a 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Charlotte FC.  Coming out of the international break, the Union were outworked and outplayed by a strong Charlotte side, who have impressed in their inaugural MLS season.

Fortunately, the Union will be returning home for their season finale, where they remain undefeated this year (11W-0L-5D) and have outscored their opponents 45-9.

Unfortunately, the the team will be without stalwart left back Kai Wagner, who will be suspended for this match due to his red card (two yellows) against Charlotte last weekend.

Additionally, team captain Alejandro Bedoya’s status for Sunday remains up in the air as he continues to deal with a hip flexor injury.  Curtin made it clear the importance of having Bedoya in the lineup after Saturday’s loss.

“We miss our captain right now.  That’s a real thing.  We miss Ale a lot.  That’s the reality of things. Hopefully he’ll be back for Toronto”

Curtin has options available to him in the midfield should Bedoya miss more time.  The most likely scenario would be to see the same starting midfield that was used against Charlotte, with Daniel Gazdag at center attack mid, Leon Flach and Jack McGlynn on the outside, and Jose Martinez at center defensive mid.

The bigger question will be the starting back four.  In addition to Kai Wagner being out, it’s reported that Jack Elliott may be dealing with an injury, though it’s unclear whether he is in jeopardy of missing the match.

Matt Real is the likeliest replacement for Wagner at left back, while Brandan Craig would be next up at center back.

Injury/Suspension Report: Ale Bedoya (Questionable, hip flexor), Kai Wagner (Out, suspension)

Matchup to Watch:  Toronto wingers vs Union outside backs

Kai Wagner is such an important component of this Union team.  Bob Bradley will look to exploit his absence.

Player to Watch: Danial Gazdag

Barring a four-goal performance a la Daniel Rios, the Golden Boot won’t be in the cards for Gazdag this year. However, he should have the opportunity to find the back of the net at least once against a less than stellar Toronto defense.

Prediction: Union 2-1 Toronto


  1. We need to shellac this team… but.. I just have this queasy feeling in my stomach about this game…

  2. I think he’ll start Harriel at LB and Mbaizo at RB. Won’t trust Real in a must-win game.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Must win? Not sure that’s accurate. Would like to win, definitely. But we’re top two no matter what.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I feel it’s a must win. Being top dog for months and then giving it up at the end is not good mojo for a playoff run. Plus you’ll have to plan an extra game and potentially the East Final on the road. No thanks. It’s a must win

  3. Chris Gibbons says:

    I don’t want any part of this game. The International break and a key injury has thrown everything out of whack, before adding in Wagner’s yellow. Maybe it’s the Philadelphian in me, but I’m mortified about having to write this match report.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I watched the NYC heartbreak from the stands like many here did last year. I too am mortified of what I might see. The Philadelphian in me won’t allow me to have confidence

  4. Hard to shake the existential fear of The Ghost of Big Games Blown in the Past. I’ll be there and will do my part to make the requisite noise and atmosphere the team needs to get it done.

  5. Contrary of what a decade of Union fandom has taught us, and in spite of a horrible last result on a football-lined turf field in the middle of a deluge against a team with something to prove, we can trust this Union team.
    That said, if Flach plays LM without Wagner to aid in the attack, there will be no offense down the left flank at all, allowing Toronto to focus the majority of their defensive effort on the U’s right flank.
    Think it would be a good night to either rest Flach or let him start at #6 in an effort to better balance the midfield offensive efforts.

  6. Here are the match officials as per PRO.
    REF: Lukasz Szpala
    AR1: Jason White
    AR2: Kevin Lock
    4TH: Joshua Encarnacion
    VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
    AVAR: Eric Weisbrod

    • Andy Muenz says:

      This is Szpala’s third Union game this season all in Chester. He had the whistle for the 4-1 win against Atlanta in August and the 1-1 draw against Montreal in April. He was also the VAR in the 2-1 win over New England in July.

  7. According to, “Toronto FC will be without at least four starters, including Italians Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Criscito, for Sunday’s MLS regular-season finale at the Philadelphia Union.

    Insigne and Criscito are both out with lower body injuries, according to the team’s injury report released Saturday. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio (neurological dysfunction) and suspended fullback Richie Laryea are also unavailable.

    Italian winger Federico Bernardeschi (lower body) is listed as questionable. Midfielder Kosi Thompson is out with a lower back injury.”

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