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Match #33 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. Toronto FC

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 28:  The Philadelphia Union celebrates a goal by Gabriel Farfan against Toronto FC during MLS action at BMO Field May 28, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 28: The Philadelphia Union celebrates a goal by Gabriel Farfan against Toronto FC during MLS action at BMO Field May 28, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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Setting: Saturday, October 15 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 4:08:00 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (JP Dellacamera, Taylor Twellman, Marc Zumoff), with coverage beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / TSN (Luke Wileman, Jason de Vos) nationally in Canada and Sportsnet 590 The FAN CJCL-AM (Dan Dunleavy) locally in Toronto / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (blackout in Canada; CSN Philadelphia feed)

Toronto's Record: 6-13-13, eighth in East

Toronto's Last Match: T, 1-1 vs. New York

Philadelphia vs. Toronto This Season: 1-0-0 (Philadelphia 6 @ Toronto 2 on May 28)

For the Toronto Perspective, Visit Waking The Red

A week after an all-impressive 2-0 victory in Seattle, the Philadelphia Union return to PPL Park for their last (regular season) home match this year. The preview for this one is simple: win or draw and you're in. Lose, and things become a little more complicated, but you're probably still in. Don't be deceived by Toronto's record, either. Union manager Piotr Nowak and his players are insisting that they aren't, but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Their defense is still as leaky as any in MLS (the 4-3-3 formation they've come out in at times this season probably doesn't help), but mid-season acquisitions Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans have revitalized the team offensively, and it's carried them to a respectable 3-2-4 over their last nine MLS matches.

The real point of discussion over this past week amongst Union fans and media is who to start in goal, with Faryd Mondragon officially available to play. Rookie Zac MacMath has really excelled in his time in MLS (the four goals conceded against New England weren't truly his fault, and the team's comeback certainly helped him throw that performance out of the memory bank), and the team is on a roll -- do you really want to tinker with something that's not broken? We'll know the thoughts of the Union braintrust tomorrow afternoon, but in all probability, the answer is yes. Mondragon is ready, and he's hungry to be back on the pitch. In fact, the entire Union roster has proclaimed in one way or another -- through Twitter or through the media -- that they're ready. They're calling this their most important match of their season, and Nowak has continued to explain the proverbial 'door to the playoffs' that he believes the Union are now standing right in front of.

If they can limit the impact of Frings, and particularly Koevermans (7 goals in nine matches/eight starts), there's no reason why the Union won't be able to turn the knob of that door and push tomorrow afternoon in front of another full PPL Park, clinching the organization's first-ever playoff berth.

Projected starters, up-to-date injury reports and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: Mondragon; G. Farfan, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Carroll; Le Toux, Adu, Torres; Mwanga, Paunovic

Toronto: Frei; Morgan, Iro, Harden, Viator; Frings, Avila, de Guzman; Johnson, Koevermans, Soolsma

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Thorne Holder and Levi Houapeu remain unavailable with a concussion and left ankle issues, respectively. Joe Tait is listed as "doubtful" with a right ankle sprain. Danny Califf is "questionable" thanks to a left shoulder sprain suffered last week in Seattle. Zac MacMath and Stefani Miglioranzi are both considered "probable" despite a left ankle sprain and a right calf sprain, respectively.

For Toronto, Elbekay Bouchiba, Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams are all out as they recover from right knee surgery. Demitrius Omphroy, Joao Plata and Oscar Cordon are "questionable" with right knee swelling, a left hamstring sprain and a right hip flexor injury, respectively. Danny Koevermans is "probable" despite a right knee contusion.

Of note:

  • Silviu Petrescu is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 37 career MLS matches, Petrescu has called for an average of just over 28 fouls per match, given an average of just under four yellow cards per match, handed out a total of seven red cards and has awarded a total of five penalty kicks.
  • Carlos Valdes is one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.
  • If you think Philadelphia's been inept at times in terms of goal scoring, Toronto has scored the fewest goals in the league (ten fewer than Philadelphia), and they've been shutout 13 times. And that's with them scoring seven in their last four MLS matches.
  • On the other side of the ball, Toronto's conceded 56 goals in MLS action this year, the most in the league. They've allowed three goals in a match five times, and have given up four or more on four occasions (one of which was to Philadelphia in late May, when these two teams met in Toronto and the Union set a franchise-record with six goals). They've conceded 15 between minutes 61 and 75, and 11 in the last fifteen minutes of matches. That's a lot.
  • Toronto is 0-13-4 when conceding first, as you might imagine. They are 0-10-3 when trailing at halftime.
It seems to all be set up for Philadelphia on a silver platter. Can they take advantage? Or will playoff-less Toronto act as spoiler, and cause the Union and their fans a little bit of anxiety? We hope there will be quite a lot to talk about after the match, so if you're not heading down to PPL Park tomorrow afternoon, hopefully you can join us for a gamethread!