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Philadelphia Union aim not to wake a sleeping giant in Toronto

The Union are in real danger of becoming the first step in a return to form in league play for the Champions League finalists

MLS: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve taken a look at the MLS standings lately, you might be confused to see Toronto FC at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference.

This is the team, after all, that is arguably the best in league history, coming off a domestic treble (MLS Cup, Supporters Shield’ and Canadian Championship) and a penalty shootout loss in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

The early struggles were understandable given the strain of the CCL and the need to rest starters, but blowing a two-goal lead at home to Chicago Fire their last time out was cause for concern among Reds fans.

This is what our friends at Waking the Red had to say following the 2-2 draw, which came courtesy of an Alan Gordon equalizer late into stoppage time:

“Excuse after excuse can continue to be made; that they don’t have many centre-backs, or that they don’t have all three of their DPs. But there comes a point where you have to be able to grind out results (especially at home) and do what needs to be done for the sake of your team.”

Incredibly, Saturday’s draw was only the second game of the season Toronto has ground out a result. The other was a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake at BMO Field way back on March 30th.

“When you watch the Chicago game you actually wanted them to beat Chicago five zero,” head coach Jim Curtin said during his weekly press conference on Wednesday. “Now, they’re probably even a little more hungry for points so it’s not the best timing. They’re on their home field. It’s almost kind of since the playoff game that we had with them where we lost that place has become a really, really scary place for teams to go.”

USMNT forward Jozy Altidore is expected to miss the match with a hamstring injury.

“Greg (Vanney) has them playing a style and a system that when you take one thing away there’s still two or three other things that can really punish you,” Curtin said. “You’re trying to limit them as best you can. You know over the course of 90 minutes Andre (Blake) is going to have to make some saves for us, someone’s going to have to make a big play on the attacking third of the field for us and you’re going to have to score goals because very rarely is it a 1-0 game in Toronto.”

Defender Drew Moor is out two-three months with a quad tear. As he did in the Champions League final, Michael Bradley started at center back in the draw last week. Curtin said they have prepared for Bradley to play either on the back line or his traditional position as the No. 6.

“We’ll have to do a good job — and we focused a lot on that today — of not letting him be the one that’s on the ball,” Curtin said. “We’ve prepared for the 3-5-2 or a version of the 4-3-3 they’ve played in recent weeks.”

The Union are more or less at full strength with Fabinho back from injury, but Curtin said a decision will have to be made whether to start the veteran or go with Ray Gaddis or Matt Real at left back. He’ll also have a decision to make on the right side of the midfield after Ilsinho played well starting in place of Fafà Picault against D.C. United.