Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC | MLS Match Preview
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs TORONTO FC
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
Sept. 3, 2014 (WEEK 26, MLS Game #241)
7 p.m. ET (CSN-Phi; TSN2/RDS2)
Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC kick off their home-and-home series over the coming week with the first leg Wednesday evening at PPL Park. Union return to action after a weekend off, their last match a 4-2 home win against the San Jose Earthquakes. It’s the start of Greg Vanney era at Toronto FC, after the former US international defender assumed the head coaching duties following the dismissal of Ryan Nelsen after TFC’s 3-0 loss to the New England Revolution last weekend.
REFEREE: Jose Carlos Rivero. AR1 (bench): Adam Wienckowski; AR2 (opposite): Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho; 4th: Sorin Stoica
MLS Career: 31 games; FC/gm: 27.1; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 8; pens: 18
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: TOR: Collen Warner
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: PHI: Maurice Edu, Fabinho, Raymon Gaddis … TOR: Michael Bradley, Steven Caldwell, Gilberto, Jackson, Justin Morrow, Dominic Oduro, Warren Creavalle, Doneil Henry
DISABLED LIST: none
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: PHI: Michael Lahoud (Sierra Leone; 9/6 v Cote d’Ivoire; 9/10 v Congo); Rais Mbolhi (Algeria; 9/6 v Ethiopia; 9/10 v Mali); Carlos Valdes (Colombia, 9/5 v Brazil), Zach Pfeffer (U.S. U-20)
ALL-TIME (10 meetings): Union 4 wins, 17 goals … Toronto FC 2 wins, 10 goals … Ties 4
AT PHILADELPHIA (5 meetings): Union 3 wins, 8 goals … Toronto FC 0 wins, 3 goals … Ties 2
RETURN MATCH: 9/6: Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union, 2 p.m.
LAST YEAR (MLS):
4/13: PHI 1, TOR 1 (McInerney 93+ – Earnshaw 71)
6/1: TOR 1, PHI 1 (Osorio 66 – McInerney 91+)
10/5: PHI 1, TOR 0 (Kleberson 95+)
- The teams are meeting in the front end of a home-and-home series during the week.
- Union have never lost to TFC at PPL Park, with three wins and two draws in five meetings all-time, last a 1-0 victory last Oct. 5 in the final meeting between the teams a year ago.
- The only road victory in the all-time series came at BMO Field on May 28, 2011, when Union claimed their biggest-ever victory, a 6-2 defeat of TFC. The last two meetings in Toronto have ended in 1-1 draws.
- Coaches record: Greg Vanney vs. PHI: first game … Jim Curtin vs. TOR: first game
Philadelphia Union return to action after a weekend off, their last match a 4-2 win against the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 24 at PPL Park. Union are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points from 25 games.
- Union took the lead after just 10 minutes. From a counter attack following a San Jose free kick, Sebastien Le Toux, who played a one-two with Conor Casey before chasing the ball down the wing. Le Toux then played a ball across the middle of the field to Andrew Wenger, who took one touch before blasting a tough-angle, left-footed shot into the top of the goal.
- Just four minutes later, Union doubled their lead when San Jose’s Victor Bernandez cleared a Sheanon Williams cross right to Le Toux, who one-timed a shot past Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.
- But the visitors pulled level with two goals in 11 minutes after the break. San Jose made it 2-1 in the 59th minute when Sam Cronin hit an absolute rocket from long range into the top corner following a failed clearance off a long free kick. And in the 70th minute, Chris Wondolowski one-timed in a cross from Shea Salinas to tie the game at 2-2.
- But the game-winner came in the 72nd minute. From a free kick near the corner, Williams got his head on the ensuing free kick from Le Toux while closely marked. Then Wenger completed his brace in the 79th minute with a dead sprint up the middle of the field and a powerful finish from the top of the box.
- Union interim manager Jim Curtin made five changes to the team that fell 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. Rais Mbolhi made his MLS debut between the posts in place of Andre Blake, and Sheanon Williams and Ethan White started in the back four and Andrew Wenger and Conor Casey also came into the team, in place of Fabinho, Brian Carroll, Danny Cruz and Pedro Ribeiro.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Rais Mbolhi - Sheanon Williams (Michael Lahoud 75), Ethan White, Carlos Valdes, Raymon Gaddis - Maurice Edu, Amobi Okugo - Sebastien Le Toux, Vincent Nogueira, Andrew Wenger (Danny Cruz 82) - Conor Casey (Brian Brown 62)
- Sebastien Le Toux scored a goal and set up all three others in the win vs. San Jose, his first career three-assist game. Since Le Toux was installed into the Union starting lineup by interim manager Jim Curtin on June 28, he has scored seven goals and added three assists.
- “His engine is a different level. The amount of ground he covers on the field is unbelievable. The defensive work that goes underappreciated when you think about Sebastien Le Toux because no one thinks defense. He’s been doing a ton of running that makes everyone else’s job easier. And then finishing in the box, one-touch finishing, he’s one of the best in our league,” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin. “He’s been great. He’s in great form. He’s been leading off the field too, which has been good with our group as well. Can’t say enough about how Seba is playing and we’re going to ride him into the playoffs.”
- Andrew Wenger scored two goals in a game for the first time in his MLS career. Wenger has five goals this season, four since coming to Union in a trade with the Montréal Impact; the five goals are a single-season career-high for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 SuperDraft.
- “He was excellent running at guys. He checks every box. He’s big, he’s strong. He’s fast. He can smack the ball with his right and left foot as you saw tonight. He’s a guy with an incredibly high ceiling. I think you’re seeing the start of something. He’s a guy that needs to be challenged like the rest of the guys,” said Curtin. Added midfielder Michael Lahoud: “I think that was the best game I’ve ever seen Andrew Wenger play in his career. He was lights out, man of the match. Feed the bear.”
- Wenger was making his first start since July 20, coming in as wide midfielder on the left with Conor Casey deployed as the lone out-and-out striker.
- “I think it’s a good place for him. He can play as a target forward too. We talked about it, if Conor’s legs went, maybe you throw him up top and throw Danny [Cruz] out wide and Andrew kind of becomes the guy in the middle,” Curtin said. “He’s versatile. He’s good. We’ve heard all along; is he a center back? Is he a midfielder? Is he a forward? He’s a soccer player and he’s now grabbed that left side and had a great game.”
- Rais Mbolhi made his MLS debut, making two saves while conceding a pair of goals in the San Jose. He will miss both matches against Toronto FC while on international duty with Algeria for African Cup of Nations qualifying.
- “He knows he needs a game. It’s important to get a game after you’ve been away for so long. I thought he was sharp. I thought he was ready. It was more defensive breakdowns than anything,” said Curtin.
- With Carlos Valdes playing alongside Ethan White in central defense, Maurice Edu and Amobi Okugo formed a deep-lying central midfield partnership for the first time since Curtin took over as manager.
- “They ran off each other and did some things well,” Curtin said. “They broke up a lot. They started the attack. Would I like to see maybe one more advance sometimes to maintain possession? For sure. But the two goals we scored early kind of dictated that we fall back a little. So I was happy with both of their performances.”
- Said Edu: “I think we both have the natural ability to get forward, to be box-to-box players. I think we understand each other well. Obviously it’s a partnership that’s going to grow as we continue to get more games together. But as a starting point, I think it went well.”
Toronto FC had their overall winless run stretched to three matches, falling 3-0 to the New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. TFC sit in a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference, with 33 points from 24 matches.
- The Revolution had the lead after just the second minute. When fullback Mark Bloom misplaced a pass towards Michael Bradley, Lee Nguyen pounced at the chance, pushing forward towards the box and cracking a rocket of a shot past TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
- In the 21st minute, New England punished Toronto’s makeshift back line once more. Bradley Orr’s pass forward was intercepted by Kelyn Rowe, who cut in from the left wing before hitting a curling, dipping shot past Bendik from outside the box.
- The scoreline was complete in the 59th minute. From a counter, Charlie Davies picked up a through ball and pushed through the Toronto back line, before slipping a pass into the box that Teal Bunbury finished with ease.
- TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen made three changes to the team that reached a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire at BMO Field. Doneil Henry and Bradley Orr came into the back four for the injured Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow, and Luke Moore started up top in place of the injured Jermain Defoe.
- TORONTO FC (4-4-2): Joseph Bendik - Nick Hagglund, Doneil Henry, Bradley Orr, Mark Bloom - Dominic Oduro (Jackson 68), Collen Warner, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio (Daniel Lovitz 62) - Gilberto, Luke Moore (Dwayne De Rosario 80).
- The Philadelphia game will be the first in charge for new Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney, after Ryan Nelsen was relieved of his duties following the loss to New England.
- “My first concern is the energy with which we start the game,” Vanney said. “The passes backwards, where we start the game in our own half of the field, that’s not an energy-positive way to start the game, especially when you come off a long game prep getting ready for that first whistle. The starts have been passive and negative and we need to be more aggressive right at the start.”
- Toronto FC saw their home winless streak extended to four games in the loss to New England. It matches the club’s longest home winless run since going a record nine games without a home victory a season ago.
- “Whenever you play at home against an opponent you want to feel more times than not that you are coming away with points. That was certainly what we set out to do today but we weren’t good enough right from the start so we have nobody to point the finger at, nobody to blame but ourselves,” said Michael Bradley. “The important thing is to respond in a strong way and get ourselves ready for Wednesday.”
- “The guys came out stiff, they looked a wee bit aggravated mentally I think, and they felt like it this was way more of a pressure game than actually it was,” Nelsen said after his last game in charge. “ ... There were 11 games left in the season, with two games in hand and in third position,” Nelsen said. “I’ve won this league, played in it for four years, been in the Premier League for 10 years, played in a World Cup, Olympics, played in some pretty hot, pressured games, and the one thing that I do know is this was not one of them.”
- With Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow injured, Mark Bloom switched sides to play left back, while Nick Hagglund moved outside to play right back. Bradley Orr returned to the lineup after missing the last four matches, coming into central defense.
- “Unfortunately when you have a few key pieces missing, they are influential when you are salary capped. You wish you had cover in every single position -- of a Steven Caldwell type, of a Justin Morrow type, but we don’t,” Nelsen said. “So then guys are going to have to put the jigsaw puzzle together. We are trying to play some position-based football and keep the ball, which ironically we did really good and are losing games now.”
- Gilberto played in a more withdrawn role underneath Luke Moore, while Collen Warner and Michael Bradley were in a deeper-lying position in central midfield in the New England match. Vanney indicated he is not looking to significantly change the team’s tactics.
- “In terms of conceding goals, we need to be a little stronger and firmer in holding our ground,” Vanney said. “We need to be more compact to work together and cover each other. Looking back at [Saturday’s] goals, all of them came from somebody basically dribbling right down the middle of the field and nobody closing it down. We have to feel more comfortable that we can stay more compact to be able to step out of our lines and confront balls and get support.”
- It marked the fourth consecutive game, and the seventh time in the last eight matches, TFC has conceded multiple goals in a game. TFC is allowing 1.63 goals per game, ranking 15th in MLS after Week 25.
- “You can go through moments where you feel like every little mistake gets punished dearly and I think we’re certainly in a run like that at the moment where maybe concentration isn’t always at its highest or where it should be and when we do make little mistakes the other teams are ready to make us pay,” said Bradley. “It’s frustrating. We hold ourselves to high standards, we feel like we have a good team, we want to be a good team but unfortunately, in the moment we’re struggling. We’re giving away goals a little too easily and when you do that you make it hard on yourself.”