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Match #11 Preview: Philadelphia Union At Toronto FC

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 28: Joao Plata #7 of Toronto FC catches Gabriel Farfan #15 of Philadelphia Union during MLS action at BMO Field May 28, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 28: Joao Plata #7 of Toronto FC catches Gabriel Farfan #15 of Philadelphia Union during MLS action at BMO Field May 28, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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Setting: Saturday, May 26 at BMO Field in Toronto, ON; kickoff scheduled for 4:36:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: The Comcast Network (Rob Weingarten, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 4:00 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / Sportsnet ONE (Dan Dunleavy, Craig Forrest) and TSN Radio 1050 (Gareth Wheeler, Alf De Blasis) in Toronto / MLS Live, Direct Kick (Sportsnet ONE feed)

Toronto's Record: 0-9-0, 0 points (10th in East)

Toronto's Last MLS Match: L, 3-1 at DC United

Philadelphia vs. Toronto Last Season: 1-0-1 (Philadelphia 6 @ Toronto 2 on May 28; Toronto 1 @ Philadelphia 1 on October 15)

For the Toronto Perspective, Visit Waking The Red

With their three-match losing streak broken following a gritty 1-1 draw in Dallas, the Philadelphia Union are headed north of the border to take on Toronto FC, who is riding a season-long losing streak. Literally. In fact, Danny Koevermans, who Toronto brought in from Europe along with Torsten Frings in the middle of last season in an effort to beef the club up, was quoted after their loss at DC last weekend as saying that Toronto "is the worst team in the world right now." Truthfully, it's hard to argue with Koevermans. It seems like nothing can go right for manager Aron Winter and Toronto -- at least when it comes to MLS. Toronto did wrap up yet another Canadian championship against Vancouver on Wednesday -- their fourth in a row -- marking their first win in any sort of competitive measure this season, and so they will be back in CONCACAF Champions League play soon enough. As things stand right now, that was probably their season, and the Champions League will be their focus yet again. Nine losses is about where a team needs to be after the entire season to make the MLS playoffs, not a quarter of the way through the season.

Toronto, for good reason, more or less played their first-choice roster on Wednesday night, so depending on who Winter chooses to play, their legs might get a little heavy as the match wears on tomorrow. The Union, in part due to Toronto's situation and in part due to their performance last week, have to be quietly optimistic. Zac MacMath should be back between the pipes tomorrow for them, Carlos Valdes will be ready to go after being forced to leave the match in Dallas due to a nasty cut above the left eye, and Freddy Adu will be eligible to play after serving his red card suspension last week. Adu in particular will be an interesting watch. It seems like with each passing appearance this season, Adu is simultaneously becoming faster and stronger as he finally becomes accustomed to playing in MLS again. Finishing has remained a problem for the Union -- though even without Adu, an argument can be made that the Union should have had more than one against Dallas, with Valdes hitting the crossbar from a header off of a corner kick. Toronto have allowed an average of 2+ goals a match, and more of the same is expected tomorrow. Getting a win on Wednesday had to be a real mental relief for the Reds, but it doesn't fix that they're an injury-plagued side, and it doesn't fully lift the weight off of their shoulders since it wasn't an MLS match (though it was MLS competition).

Defensively the Union appear to be able to survive in the post-Danny Califf era, though it's probably a bit early to draw any final conclusions given that Dallas's offense doesn't rank much higher than the Union's when you take away Brek Shea, and Toronto's offense, like their defense, is square at the bottom of the league. Raymon Gaddis continues to impress, and though Michael Farfan's creativity is muffled when he's coming out of the back, he can certainly slot in back on a wing. Koevermans and offseason acquisition Reggie Lambe lead Toronto with two goals a piece. Lambe scored the winner on Wednesday night against Vancouver, but hasn't scored in MLS in a month (and got both of his goals in that one match), and Koevermans hasn't been a starter since he suffered a groin injury. Koevermans insists that he's at 100%, but Aron Winter disagrees (we saw that story play out here recently, didn't we). Eric Avila's ankle contusion is expected to keep him out of the lineup for Toronto, though, and that could give Koevermans a way back in.

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

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath/Konopka; Gaddis, Valdes, Williams, M. Farfan; Carroll, Gomez; Adu, Daniel; Mwanga, Pajoy

Toronto: Kocic; Morgan, Henry, Cann, Hall; Plata, Frings, de Guzman, Lambe; Koevermans, Johnson

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, goalkeeper Chase Harrison is unavailable (ankle sprain), as are Roger Torres (left knee surgery recovery) and Krystian Witkowski (concussion). Chris Albright (left big toe sprain) is "doubtful". Gabriel Gomez (left quad contusion), Zac MacMath (concussion symptoms) and Carlos Valdes (head laceration) are "questionable", but are expected to be available if called upon. Gabriel Farfan is listed as "probable" with a right knee contusion. Porfirio Lopez and Zach Pfeffer are away from the team due to national team commitments, with Gomez leaving the team following tomorrow's match.

For Toronto, Nicholas Lindsay (left knee surgery), Stefan Frei (left lower leg), Aaron Maund (hypema in right eye), and Logan Emory (shoulder subluxation) are all unavailable. Miguel Aceval's availability (left quad strain) is "doubtful". Dicoy Williams (right knee surgery) and Torsten Frings (shoulder sprain) are "questionable".

Of note:

  • Juan Guzman is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In just 13 career MLS matches, Guzman has called an average of between 26 and 27 fouls per match, given an average of just under four yellow cards per match, handed out a total of six red cards and has awarded a total of four penalty kicks.
  • Gabriel Gomez is one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation. Julian de Guzman and Michael Farfan are two yellow cards away.
  • Ten of the thirteen goals Toronto has conceded in MLS play this season have come in the second half, though they gave up a goal just 55 seconds in at RFK last weekend. Eleven of those thirteen have come in their last four MLS matches.
  • Rob Weingarten will join Bob Rigby on tomorrow's local telecast, with JP Dellacamera doing work for NBC Sports this weekend and Marc Zumoff doing Sixers pre- and post-game work for Comcast. Weingarten did television and radio play-by-play for MLS's now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny for five seasons and served in a similar role for the Women's United Soccer Association version of the Atlanta Beat.
A cautiously optimistic Union go for their first win in a month while also trying not to earn the distinction of being the first team to give points to Toronto this season. We hope you can join us tomorrow afternoon and evening for a gamethread!