The Union come off of a 4-0 win on the road to face what many are calling the hottest team in MLS. Toronto is unbeaten in their last five matches. They’ve won four out of those five, and have done so thanks to their attack. They are a dangerous team when last years league MVP Giovinco is allowed time on the ball. Add in US Men’s national team players striker Jozy Altidore and midfielder Micheal Bradley, and you get one of MLS’ best attacks. Philly had been on a four game unbeaten streak until last Saturday. Their 4-0 defeat against New England has given them the confidence they need going forward. It also showcased Alejandro Bedoya’s potential with Philly. Needless to say, this is a match with a lot at stake.
Toronto have been one of the best MLS sides of the last month, and their attacking power has been showcased. In their last five games they have outscored their opponents 13-3! They have run over their opponents, and look to claim the top of the Eastern Conference Saturday.
With a win Toronto can leap above NYCFC for the top place in the East. They could do this by rolling with what has been working for them. Good team defense that suppresses the oppositions attack, and an attack that’s firing on all cylinders. They score from the run of play, on counter attacks/in transition, on free kicks thanks to Giovinco’s magic, and from corners. This Toronto side will try to be the third team to beat Philly in Talen Energy Stadium this season, but how can the Union hold them in check?
Philadelphia have done a good job limiting teams at home this year; especially, when they have a great player playing the number 8-role. With Vincent Nogueira on the field, The Union did not lose a game at Talen Energy Stadium. Since Nogueira’s departure the Union have struggled. Tranquillo Barnetta was asked to play the 8-role, and didn’t live up to Nogueira’s standards. Now the Union have Alejandro Bedoya at the 8-spot. He is as comfortable as anyone in that spot, and if the Union want success in this match they’ll need Bedoya to be active.
Alejandro looked good in his first game for the Union at the 8. He dropped deep when the Union were in possession, got on the ball, and distributed well. This alleviated the pressure the Union attackers, as they did not have to create everything for themselves. Bedoya also played great defense. He helped clog up the midfield and made it hard for New England to play through the middle of the field. He needs to play, and succeed at that against Toronto if the Union want to win.
The key to success against Toronto is: one limiting their chances to score, and two keep the pressure on their defense. The first part is no easy task. Giovinco is tied for lead scoring in the league, and their team is built around keeping the pressure high in their attacking third. Add in the physical hold up play from Altidore, and the precession passing of Micheal Bradley, and this team is hard to stop. Their play makes it hard for opposing teams to pressure TFC’s defense, which is partly why they have the best defense in the league. But when you can force Toronto to turn the ball over, there is a lot of space for a good counter attack.
The one way Toronto constantly gives up chances is in transition. When they’re on the attack, they push their outside backs high to give more attacking help and service. But if/when their attacks break down they have a hard time stopping teams from getting a look at goal. Just last week this happened to the reds, and two ex-Union players laid the blueprint on how to score on Toronto.
Early in the match Toronto were pushing numbers forward trying to generate an attack. Houston forced a turnover and moved it quickly up the field creating a four on three break. Houston moved the ball to the right-wing. Andrew Wenger took the ball down the sideline; he drew a defender and played a lovely cross in between two TFC players. A beautiful chip from the striker Minotas played Chaco Maidana into the box. He was one on one with the keeper and buried the shot. Philly will need to look to strike this way when they create turnovers, and also play stellar defense.
Last Saturday the Union’s defense looked to make a stride forward for the first time in a while. Marquez and Tribbett held the revs attackers for the whole game in the middle of the field. Rosenberry and Fabinho took away crossing lanes on the outside. Creavalle and Bedoya showed great work rat closing down New England’s build up/attack. They will need to continue this form against a stronger opponent.
Giovinco is small, fast, and crafty; when you think you’ve got him covered he finds a way to score. That is the complete opposite of Jozy Altidore. He’s big and physical and demands attention as well. He can score if you give him space and play a ball to another player if closely guarded. The Union need a statement game from their young back line. Marquez, and whoever the right-center back is, either Tribbett or Yaro will need to communicate well to keep tabs on Giovinco and Altidore and the rest of the poised Toronto attack. If they can grind out stops, with help from Bedoya and Creavalle in the midfield, and some Andre Blake magic saves then the Union will have the opportunity to win the match.
This match has a lot at stake both teams need the win to better control the Eastern Conference. If Toronto is on all game, and the Union defense is not up to snuff, then Toronto will walk away with three points and the lead of the East. If the Union dig deep, and have herculean efforts from players, then they will get the three points and be tied with Toronto. Both teams need the result, but something tells me Philly is going to come out with the W in this one. Bedoya’s home debut, coming off of a 4-0 win, and a chance to get back towards the top of the East sounds like the perfect Philly story to me!
We will find out what will happen later tonight. It has the potential to be one of the most season altering games of 2016! Make sure to tune in to The Comcast Network (TCN) at 7PM EST for all the action. I’ll recap the game, hopefully after a season altering win for the boys in blue, in the next few days. Until then, peace out, and let’s go Union!