Philadelphia Union Preview: The Maple Leaf Connection

Philadelphia Union

The MLS season is now six games in for the Philadelphia Union and wow oh wow, what a start to the season this has been. While a lot of people predicted the Union to finish towards the top of the conference, I can certainly say that not a lot of people had them starting 5-0-1 in their first six games. The most recent performance was a 1-0 win over the Columbus crew on what can only be described as a howler of the highest quality from Crew keeper Eloy Room, gifting the Union an early lead that they did not relinquish.

Philadelphia Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

Philadelphia Union vs Toronto FC

Riding a five-game winning streak and a four-game shutout streak, the Philadelphia Union turns their attention north of the border to face off against Bob Bradley and Toronto FC. Toronto is coming off a 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake in their most recent game. Let us take a look at this Bob Bradley lead Toronto FC team, how they’ve fared to this point in the season, a player to watch out for, and the prediction for the matchup this upcoming weekend.

2022 MLS Season

Toronto FC came into the season with mixed expectations after the insanely poor season that they had last year. There was a bit of turnover on this roster and a coach in Bob Bradley who has already made his mark on the roster transition. Bob has come in and mixed veteran talent with some impressive academy players to create a roster that does not look like much but still has the ability to kill you on the break. 

To this point in the season, Toronto comes in with a flat record of 2-2-2 for two wins, two losses, two draws, and eight points on the season. The start to the season was not great for Toronto. They drew their first game on the road in Dallas, but then came home and got walloped 4-1 against NYRB, all thanks to a Lewis Morgan first-half hat trick. The next game saw the team travel to Columbus, where despite an early lead, managed to lose 2-1 to the Crew in a game that Toronto had chances to come back in. 

Toronto has appeared to right the ship the last three games, winning two of the three games at home by a 2-1 scoreline and drawing on the road against RSL. Despite the slow start, Toronto appears to have turned the corner and is riding a solid wave of form into their matchup against the red-hot Philadelphia Union.

X-Factor

The player that the Philadelphia Union needs to watch out for is not the player that most fans would expect but a player that has cemented himself as a Canadian national team mainstay and a pest in the midfield. This player in question would be none other than Jonathan Osorio. To this point in the season, he has scored two goals and contributed two assists in six games while having a passing percentage of 86.3%, good for third on the team. 

I know he is not the player that most Union fans would have envisioned that I would select but hear me out for why the Philadelphia Union needs to worry about Osorio. He is an absolute pest in the midfield, breaking up challenges and moving the ball forward to start the Toronto counterattack. He is not afraid to get stuck in on a challenge on one end and crash the box for a chance on net down the other end. 

His play has been one of the few consistent things that Toronto has been able to rely on these past few mixed seasons and the main reason he has vaulted himself into an obvious name for the World Cup in Qatar. If the Union can nullify his ability to create chaos in the midfield, I believe that they can force Toronto to play their game and get a very hard-earned three points on the road.

Prediction

Road games are always a tough thing to predict no matter the opponent. When it comes to Toronto, the Philadelphia Union has had mixed success over the years when traveling north of the border. This time around, I do believe that the Union will be better equipped than in past years to handle the youth and energy that Bob Bradley has brought to this Toronto side. 

Despite not contributing any goals in the last game, the front three of Gazdag, Uhre, and Carranza created some solid chances and forced Columbus to play the ball quicker than they liked, which forced some turnovers and fell right into the Union’s hands. I believe that Jim Curtin will keep this going and start this front three again. The real battle will be in the midfield, as Toronto will try to impose their will on the game and it will be up to the stout Philadelphia Union midfield to nullify the potentially deadly Toronto attack. 

I see this being a very open game with both teams trading chances. For me, this is the game that Uhre finally breaks onto the score sheet, contributing a goal in a 2-1 Union win that sees Philly keep their hold on top of the eastern conference. Game time is set for 7:30 on Saturday night!

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

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