Match #16 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. Toronto FC

May 26, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Toronto FC forward Danny Koevermans (14) celebrates his game winning goal against the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field. Toronto defeated Philadelphia 1-0. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

Setting: Sunday, July 8 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 4:08 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: 6abc (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / TSN (Luke Wileman, Jason de Vos), CJAD-AM (Dan Dunleavy) in Canada / MLS Direct Kick, MLS Live (U.S. only; 6abc feed)

Toronto's Record: 2-10-4, 10 points (tenth in East)

Toronto's Last Match: T, 1-1 at FC Dallas

Philadelphia vs. Toronto This Season: 0-1-0 (Philadelphia 0 @ Toronto 1 on May 26)

For the Toronto Perspective, Visit Waking The Red

The teams with the two worst records in Major League Soccer get together once again on Sunday, as the Philadelphia Union host Toronto FC. These two sides met just six weeks ago up at BMO Field in what was to be the Union's last MLS match with Peter Nowak at the helm. Toronto's Danny Koevermans, just a few days after calling his then-winless side "the worst team in the world", scored the game's only goal in the 88th minute to give Toronto that elusive first victory of the season in the club's tenth try. For Union fans, that loss stung in particular, and the change in leadership that followed came as little surprise. Toronto, too, opted to make a coaching chance soon after the match. That afternoon in Toronto has actually turned out to be something of a turning point for both Philadelphia and Toronto. The Union, under John Hackworth, look to be revitalized, and Toronto FC, under Paul Mariner, are unbeaten in five (one win, four draws) after starting winless in nine.

Since calling his team out, Koevermans has done something that, frankly, most athletes don't do: he's put actions behind his words. He's tallied in seven of Toronto's last eight MLS matches, including each of their last five. It's put him in a tie for third place in the entire league for goal scoring. The entire Toronto offense, really, which was anaemic prior to their coaching change (much like Philadelphia), has stepped it up, with a combined ten goals in their last five matches. This after scoring a total of eight goals in the preceding eleven matches. Funny enough, their offensive improvement has come after the removal of Aron Winter's 4-3-3 in place of a more traditional 4-4-2, while Philadelphia's been the exact opposite. John Hackworth's introduction of a 4-3-3 formation has served the Union roster much more beneficial than Peter Nowak's preferred 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2. The red-hot Koevermans is Toronto's flagship offensive threat, but Ryan Johnson, who has started up top in every match this season for Toronto, is also dangerous. FC Dallas managed to shut them down pretty well this past Saturday, though, with the team registering a season-low in shots, with just eight attempts at goal.

It will be interesting to see how John Hackworth decides to manage minutes for his starters on Sunday, given that the team has a quicker-than-usual turnaround for their U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against Sporting KC on Wednesday. Typically, MLS schedules weekend matches on Saturdays and mid-week matches on Wednesdays, so the loss of a rest day makes this a particularly rough 96 hours for the Union. Hackworth has repeatedly emphasized how important the Open Cup is for his team and for the organization as a whole, so one has to assume that he will not be afraid to substitute out any of his core starters in the second half if he sees the legs getting heavy to ensure that they are fresh for Wednesday. Expect to see Antoine Hoppenot used as a super-sub once again, perhaps even a little bit earlier than he's typically entered matches. Perhaps the minutes crunch will result in some added opportunity for one or more of Josue Martinez, Jorge Perlaza, and Roger Torres (who has been on the bench, ready to come in if called upon, for a few weeks now) either tomorrow, Wednesday, or next Saturday against the visiting Montreal Impact.

Projected starters, injury reports, and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Daniel, Carroll, Lahoud; Adu, M. Farfan, McInerney

Toronto: Kocic; Morgan, Emory, Eckersley, Hall; Avila, Frings, Dunfield, Lambe; Johnson, Koevermans

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Chandler Hoffman (left big toe fracture), Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms), and Bakary Soumare (right knee meniscus recovery) are out. The availability of Sheanon Williams (right big toe fracture recovery) is "probable".

For Toronto, Stefan Frei (left lower leg) and Doneil Henry (illness) are unavailable. Nicholas Lindsay (left knee surgery recovery), Ty Harden (right adductor strain), and Adrian Cann (right knee sprain) are "questionable".

Of note:

  • Paul Ward is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 35 career MLS matches, Ward has called an average of just over 23 fouls per match, given out an average of 3-4 yellow cards per match, handed out a total of 11 red cards, and has awarded a total of seven penalty kicks.
  • Carlos Valdes is one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • Toronto has conceded within the first five minutes in each of their last two matches.
  • The Union and Toronto both avoided being called for offside in their matches on Saturday, the first time either of them had done so this season.
  • A remarkable 24 of Toronto's 30 conceded goals have been scored from inside the penalty area, which probably says all you need to know about how well most teams have done at breaking down the Toronto midfield and backline.
The Union go for another solid result to further their momentum under John Hackworth, with visiting Toronto FC vying to continue their unbeaten streak as they hope to get closer to breaking out of last place in the Eastern Conference. Defeating the team directly ahead of them in the standings, Philadelphia, would go a long way towards doing that. If you're heading down to PPL Park tomorrow, enjoy the match. If you're not, hope you can join us for a gamethread!
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