Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview: Can the Union beat TFC with two of their best suspended?

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The Union are set to take on reigning MLS Cup champions Toronto FC Friday night. Not too long ago this Union team lost 3-0 in Toronto’s building and we were wondering if this season was going down the drain. Now Philadelphia is knocking on the door of the playoffs in their last game before MLS’ World Cup Break. Can they get a W as they move onto an off week? Our Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview if the Union can win without two of their best players.

Jeff Green:

It was only a month ago when the Union had a reality check, losing 3-0 to Toronto FC.  A week prior, they had beaten DC United at home and any positive thoughts felt after that win, were quickly dashed after falling to last year’s champs.  Toronto was going on fumes at the time, having played and traveled more than any other club in MLS while playing in CONCACAF.  If there were an opportunity for the Union to take advantage of a tired squad, it was that night, and they were still beaten handily.

Decimated by injury over the past month, Toronto is slowly getting their squad back to only a few remaining on the injured list.  U.S. national forward, Jozy Altidore is the biggest name still out while he recovers from early May foot surgery.  They are coming off a total collapse at Columbus, where they blew a 3-0 lead in the 2nd half, resulting in a draw.  Things can’t get much worse for Toronto.  They’ll either be coming to Talen Energy Stadium furious, or too mentally beaten down to compete.  My guess is the former.

Coach Jim Curtin has a lot to be proud of after last week’s 3-1 defeat to Atlanta United FC.  We all know the story so I’m not going to rehash it.  What I took from that match, was the Union giving up only a single goal during the run of play, two men down to the most potent attack in MLS.  Much of the team will be fresh since Curtin used a good mix of starters and subs in the Open Cup victory over Richmond on Tuesday.  Expect Gaddis to be back in for Fabinho, and Warren Creavalle and Derrick Jones, that’s right Derrick Jones, to fill in for the suspended Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya.

As much as Toronto has struggled this season, they have an even harder time of it on the road.  Michael Bradley forced into playing center back must be something the Union capitalize on and keep their opponent’s distribution locked down.  With the international break coming after this weekend, this match could mentally break the Union if they were to falter again.  A win and a Orlando draw or loss would put the boys in blue above the ever-elusive red line for two weeks.  Mentally, that could mean the world.

Prediction: Union: 3  Toronto FC: 1

Union man of the match: Borek Dockal

Matt McClain:

With veteran midfielder’s Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya out of the lineup following their red cards and ejections last match against Atlanta United FC, Philadelphia will take to the pitch Friday night against a continually struggling Toronto FC side.

Toronto FC enters Chester’s Talen Energy Stadium with an injury devastated roster – still. Over the last month, Toronto and its injury bug woes have plummeted in the Eastern Conference standings. A borderline absurd run of injuries devastated the center back groupings for Toronto. Michael Bradley, their defensive midfielder, was forced to play center back in an emergency fill-in role. Bradley’s lack of presence in the midfield, coupled with long-term injuries to Jozy Altidore, among others, has left a once feared MLS club hoping for their bad luck to turn. Their most recent 3-3 draw at Columbus Crew SC did them no favors.
But, there are reports that this week’s training sessions revealed a somewhat healthier Toronto FC side. Greg Vanney, head coach, noted he finally had over 20 players fully participating in training.
Currently, Toronto FC sits in a lowly 10th position with just 11 points and an even less impressive three wins – one of those against Philadelphia back in early May. However, Toronto has yet to find a W away from home.
That task, finding their first road victory, will be very difficult considering the recent run of form Jim Curtin’s Philadelphia Union find themselves enjoying.
Especially considering the wave of good fortune Philadelphia finds themselves riding after their 5-0 shellacking of Richmond Kickers Tuesday night. There remains no better motivating factor than netting multiple goals on top of a clean sheet in route to a meaningful victory.
Expect CJ Sapong to return to the forward position while Warren Creavalle could earn the starting job in place of the suspended Medunjanin. Ilsinho out wide on the right should provide quick burst of attacking flare while Borek Dockal return to central midfield. The left winger position could be an interesting one to watch whenever Curtin releases his starting XI prior to Friday’s kickoff. David Accam played 90+ minutes Tuesday and was effective throughout. If he has energy in the tank, I think his performance against Richmond could grant him a look for playing time against Toronto.
The first 20 minutes of the match will be under more scrutiny than normal for Philadelphia Friday. The first goal remains the main catalyst for Curtin’s squad in the sense that if they grab it, greatness is afoot. But if they concede early, Toronto could capitalize in what could be an ugly loss for Philadelphia.
Prediction: Union: 2  Toronto FC: 1
Union Man of the Match: Ilsinho

Tim Lovenguth:

As the Union move on from their tough defeat at Atlanta, wherein they lost two of their best players to Red Cards, they have had little time to rest. They thrashed Richmond Kickers 5-0 on Tuesday night in the US Open Cup which allowed some of their normal starters to rest. Now they’re preparing for the current MLS Cup-holders.

Toronto FC have not looked their best. They’ve lost a lot of their defenders to injury forcing Micheal Bradley to play as a center back. Their recent run of form has been poor, but they have had glimpses of their former-selves.

Last week Toronto scored three goals in Columbus to go up 3-0. They looked to be back, but then they gave up three goals down the stretch of the match. This gives the Union a blueprint to get a result against TFC.

Attack them on the counter and play as many balls behind their leaky back three. With the union playing very well at home this should be an easy job, however they will have to do this without Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin.

The two central midfielders are suspended for this match from the chaos that ensued in Atlanta last week. This provides opportunists for other Union players to get a start. Warren Creavalle will start at the six position, but the eight is between Derick Jones and Anthony Fontana. Jones played that position on Tuesday, but coach Jim Curtin said post game that Jones didn’t play to his potential. Does that leave room for Fontana? When he has played the eight, he has shown his ability to block passing lanes and his great attacking sense moving forward.

Whoever steps into this role they’ll have to help dictate the flow of the game, and create chances for the Union’s attackers. Speed on the wings, Borek Dockal and Cory Burke leading the attack, and the young defenders stopping Toronto will be the key to the Union getting a win vs Toronto!

Prediction: Union: 3 Toronto: 2
Union Man of The Match: Anthony Fontana

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Tim Lovenguth

Matt McClain

Jeff Green

Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit:  Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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