Toronto FC’s 2019 campaign has already started, but tomorrow is the first game of the season for the Philadelphia Union so we got in touch with our friends at fellow SB Nation site Waking The Red to get a better idea of what to expect from the Reds at Talen Energy Stadium tomorrow.
Benedict Rhodes was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions.
We’ve obviously seen and paid attention to what’s gone down in CCL and while the thinking is that the results are good for the Union, come Saturday do you think it matters?
Injuries were a major concern during Toronto FC’s CCL run, as Nick DeLeon, Jozy Altidore and Drew Moor were among a long list of injured players for the first leg in Panama. Although Nick DeLeon started in the second leg, and was one of the best players on the pitch, Altidore remains injured and barring a major change, will likely miss the season opener as well. I think that the CCL defeat could lead to good things for Toronto FC in the league, especially in the first match, because now they have something to prove. In 2017, playing with the mindset that they have to earn every win and not take any opponent for granted lead to incredible success, and is a mindset that the coaches and veteran players have to revive ahead of Saturday’s match.
The Union have changed their formation to a 4-4-2 and are all about forcing the issue with high pressure. How do you think Toronto will attack the press and what does this team look like on the counter with Sean gone?
Greg Vanney has introduced a 4-3-3 formation at Toronto FC this year, something completely different to the 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation that he played over the previous few years. The key to the counter attack will be one of the midfield links between the defence and attack, Jonathan Osorio. Osorio had a breakout year in 2018, doubling his total career goal tally, and worked well with Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez. Both Giovinco and Vazquez have since moved on to new clubs, leaving Osorio as the main attacking midfielder. He showed signs of his 2018 self in the two CCL games, and will be called upon to pull the attacking strings and lead the counter attack this season.
Toronto had a bad season last year in league play it seems against everyone but the Union. Was it a case of Greg Vanney having Jim Curtin’s number or was it a sign the teams weren’t as far apart as the standings suggested?
Simply put, Toronto FC were awful in 2018, and deserved to finish where they did in the standings. They did, however, manage to beat the Union in both matches between the two sides, 3-0 on May 4th and 2-0 on June 8th. With that in mind, I think it came down to Toronto FC’s players just performing better in those matches. In May, TFC dominated the Union, outshooting them 16-5. Three incredible goals, scored by Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez and Jay Chapman, and some big saves by goalkeeper Alex Bono propelled them to victory at BMO Field. In June, the Union played better than they did in the reverse fixture but again fell to the Reds, as a brace from Jonathan Osorio saw TFC take all three points at Talen Energy Stadium.
Who is the danger man for the Union’s young back line with Seba gone?
The biggest threat to the Union’s defenders is Terrence Boyd. The club’s newest addition is the biggest physical presence up top for Toronto FC, as his combination of size, strength and determination are a nightmare for any defence, let alone a young group that is still relatively inexperienced in Major League Soccer. He could start the match, but after Jordan Hamilton’s strong display in the second leg of their CCL tie, Boyd might start on the bench.
Projected starting lineup/injuries/score prediction.
Injuries: Jozy Altidore and Eriq Zavaleta (both missed the CCL games because of injury)
Score prediction: 2-1 TFC