Union home opener preview: The east is for the taking vs Toronto FC

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The first game at Talen Energy Stadium is today! A difficult opponent in Toronto FC come to town; this match has a lot at stake early in the season. The first of the two matches between these teams comes at a time that could really benefit the Union. Only two teams in the east have more points than the Union and TFC, so this match has the potential to put the victor atop the leaderboards early in the season. Here’s a look at how Philly can best the team that ended their 2016, and climb to the top of the table by the end of the weekend; it’s time for our Union home opener preview.

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The Union have a good record in home openers. They are 5-2-1 in home openers, and always play well in the first game in front of their home fans. This season they face Toronto FC who is coming off a frustrating scoreless draw at Real Salt Lake. Toronto’s scary attack had many chances but could not find the net. The Union are coming off of a good defensive effort in their scoreless draw in Vancouver (for more on that game look here: UNION’S POINT ON THE ROAD IN FRIGID VANCOUVER WAS AN IMPORTANT ONE). This sets up an intriguing matchup between the leagues best attacker, and the top keeper.

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whoever wins the Blake vs Giovinco battle could very well determine the outcome of this game. Giovinco has a knack for finding ways to create audacious attempts on goal. His attempts usually best keepers. Blake has the knack for the spectacular save. He finds ways to levitate while diving to keep shots out. This is a marquee matchup between two of the best in MLS. So if Giovinco is such a dynamic creator for Toronto FC, why did their first game result in a scoreless draw?

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Toronto was definitely the more dangerous team in their match agaisnt RSL. Their smart pressing and counter attack made for some chances. If it were mid-season many of the chances Jozy Altidore had would’ve ended up as goals. His efforts in the first half especially were a miss-hit chip one-on-one with the keeper, and another that went just wide. TFC’s press is what creates such great chances, especially when they’re on the road.

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Toronto’s game plan on the road seems to muddle up the middle of the field with their five midfielders to create dangerous counter attacks. They do this in the video above against Real Salt Lake. Some good pressure at midfield  created a turnover. The ball was quickly played to Giovinco who pushed forward, drawing defenders. The Italian played a ball through to his strike partner Altidore whose attempt was just wide. The Union will need to avoid these types of mistakes in the game. If Giovinco gets on the ball he is a danger in the open field.

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Giovinco’s speed created a penalty in last weeks match. His speed is deadly, and his teammates know to get him the ball in dangerous spots. When they have possession Toronto want Micheal Bradley on the ball looking for the deadly pass to the forwards. Giovinco’s earned penalty happened because Toronto’s midfield was able to pick him out. luckily Giovinco’s penalty was saved. Because of that, Toronto will be fuming at their lack of execution on offense.

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Toronto missed many crucial goal scoring opportunities. They will look to attack the Union through the middle of the field. Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin and Oguchi Onyewu will have their hands full trying to stop this strong team. The Union’s coach Jim Curtin has confidence in them however.

Want to see Jim Curtin’s thoughts on the match up? Watch this video, and check out further analysis here: WEEKLY PHILADELPHIA UNION PRESSER ANALYSIS: WEEK 2, TORONTO

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This Union team look confident defensively to stop this strong opponent. The Union will need to have another form of defense in this match; possession. Philly will look to beat TFC’s strong attack by holding the majority of possession.The old “they can’t win if they don’t have the ball” outlook.

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This Union team is set up for this style of play. Their ability to create chances from their possession is something that could propel the Union to a victory. The ability to win the ball and pass it back their deep-lying midfielder, Haris Medunjanin. He then will look for the appropriate move to make going forward. The Union did well with this as a group agaisnt Vancouver, leading to chances.

The Union will look to do this to beat TFC, there is space down the wings against Toronto because they play with only three defenders. This possession/build up play, coupled with strong smart defending, will help the Union find success against Toronto’s scary team. If they can stay focused for the 90 minutes they might just find themselves atop the east at the end of the weekend.

Here’s some stats on the head-to-head matchup. Hopefully you’re all as hyped up as I am for this crucial early season match.

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In my in-depth look at the Union’s opponents articles I wrote, I predicted the Union would draw this game at home. I’m going to stick with my prediction’s; although, I think this Union team is disciplined enough to get the tree points. We shall see what happens at 4:30. The game will be live on Comcast Sports Network. I’ll be live at the game tweeting the game, as well as, using Philly Sports Network’s Instagram to highlight the passionate Union fans! Be on the lookout for all of that!

The first home game of the season is here Union fans! Let’s see if the boys in blue turn Talen Energy Stadium into a fortress right off the bat! See some of you at the game! Come back to Philly Sports Network for analysis of the game and MLS round-up from week two later this weekend. Until then, peace out Union fans.

 

Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

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