The Philadelphia Union continued their unbeaten streak and their unbelievable start to the MLS season after beating the Columbus Crew last weekend, 1-0. This week they look to keep that streak alive as they head on the road to face Toronto FC. Here are 5 things to look out for ahead of the game.
5 Things to Watch
Toronto is Up and Down
Toronto, in my opinion, are one of the bigger and more famous teams in the MLS and so there are always expectations around them to do well and this year is no different. However, Toronto has really struggled in finding form this year after winning two, drawing two, and losing two games so far this season.
It’s obvious that Toronto will come good in the summer after the arrival of Italian star Lorenzo Insigne from Napoli but they have to be in a good position for when Insigne arrives, and right now, they’re dropping points throughout the season.
Toronto will always be a tough test because everyone knows how good they can be but with how they’ve performed so far this season. I think the Union knows they are there for the taking and the Union should know they have a great chance at bringing all three points back to Philly.
Toronto’s Change of System
Toronto has had a change in system since the start of the season, they started out with a 4-2-3-1 formation during the first three games of the season and that didn’t go well for them going winless throughout those three games.
Since that terrible start to the season, Toronto switched their formation to a 3-4-2-1 with Jesus Jiminez leading the line through the middle. Since switching to this 3-4-2-1 formation, Toronto has gone undefeated with two wins (one against NYCFC) and a draw against Real Salt Lake in their last game.
Their overall play is a possession-based play and one where they’re extremely patient and wait for chances to present themselves rather than forcing chances to happen, very much like Manchester City. They only average 7.67 shots per 90 minutes, which is the lowest average in the league and by a large margin, but they also average four shots on target per 90 minutes, which is up there with the best in the league. They have also scored 11 goals this year, again in the upper tier of the league, so they’re highly efficient when the chances present themselves
Union and the Back Four Proved They Are Title Contenders Last Week
It’s something that I have always said about certain teams and it’s something that always comes up in my football conversations with my dad but the one thing that truly makes a championship-winning team is the fact they can grind out results even when they’re not on the top of their game, and that’s exactly what the Union did last week.
The Union was nowhere near at their best last week against the Crew. Columbus had a multitude of chances during the game and definitely should have got at least a point out of the game, but they didn’t and the Union battled out the game for the three points, that’s what wins you championships.
The back four for the Union have just been on another level to every other team in the league this year. The way they got those three points for the Union last week, and overall, has been the best, consistent performers in the league is nothing short of phenomenal. Wagner and Harriel have been causing nightmares for opposing teams on both ends of the pitch, whilst Glesnes and Elliot have shut down every striker they’ve come up against and protected Andre Blake very well. They all deserve huge credit for how well the Union has done so far this season.
Toronto’s Stars to Watch
Every week I pick out between one-to-three players on the opposition team that the Union has to watch out for. I’ll probably go back and see how impactful they were in the games but anyway, this week I’ve picked three players, midfielders Alejandro Pozuelo, Jonathan Osorio, and defender Luca Petrasso.
Alejandro Pozuelo has been one of the bigger players in the MLS since arriving in Toronto back in 2019 and this season he’s Toronto’s best performer again. The whole game runs through him, every attack is controlled by him and his teammates know who they need to give the ball to if they want things to happen. With one goal, one assist, and 80% passing accuracy, Pozuelo has been consistently great this season.
Jonathan Osario has been a great box-to-box midfielder and the perfect partner for Michael Bradley this season. With two goals, one assist, and 86% pass accuracy whilst also helping out defensively, Osario has been everywhere for Toronto and will be a key player to shut down if the Union want to win. Left-back Luca Petrasso also deserves a shoutout as he’s been very influential in Toronto’s play and will look to have a similar impact on the game as Wagner does for the Union
Predictions for the Game
This week I’m going to try something new out for this weekly piece and give some predictions for the game. I think this will be a fairly open game and I can see both teams grabbing a goal, I reckon Uhre will score his first Union goal and I think Pozuelo will grab a goal too.
For a scoreline, I can see the game either ending up 2-2 or a 2-1 win for the Union but I feel a little better backing a draw for this game just because Toronto have found some form and success with this new 3-4-2-1 formation and they did just knock off NYCFC two weeks ago.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych