CHESTER, Pa. – A week after winning on the road against one of the league's top teams, the Philadelphia Union are preparing for a matchup that is almost the exact opposite.
But for all the ground gained in the standings in last Friday's 1-0 upset win over Sporting Kansas City, the Union know they could give it right back if they cannot beat lowly Toronto FC at PPL Park on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, TSN2, MLS LIVE).
“A win was needed to get us off the road we’ve been going on,” Union right back Sheanon Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “But the game will be completely meaningless if we don’t get a good result against Toronto.”
On paper, beating ninth-place Toronto at home should be an easier task than beating second-place Sporting Kansas City on the road. But the fifth-place Union have often done better this season away from home, where they’ve picked up wins over solid squads like Colorado, Chicago and Kansas City while wresting points away from Supporters’ Shield frontrunners Real Salt Lake and New York.
Meanwhile, they have seemed to let down when they’ve been favorites, as they will be for Saturday’s tilt with Toronto.
“Tactically, we have to approach this game a little differently,” Union head coach John Hackworth said. “Last Friday, we were the underdog, and quite honestly, we’re pretty good in that role. This week, people will say we’re at home and that we have to win to keep pace in the playoff race.
"The pressure is truly on us this week, and that’s OK. Everyone in our locker room would want it that way with four games to play.”
While Philadelphia rank third in the league in points per road game (1.27) with a 5-6-4 mark, they are 16th in points per home game (1.53), ranking ahead of only the teams already eliminated from playoff contention: Chivas USA, Toronto and D.C. United.
Having broken a five-game winless streak against Kansas City, the Union will be trying to win consecutive games against MLS opponents for the first time since March 10-16, the second and third games of the season. Beating Toronto is key to Philadelphia hopes of making the postseason and would improve their home record at the same time.
“Going into the season, that’s definitely not what we wanted,” Williams said of Philadelphia's 6-4-5 home record. “We wanted to make this place into a little bit more of a fortress. We definitely need to do a good job of that this weekend and reestablish this place as somewhere people don’t like to play.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.