It's almost over, it's so close they can almost smell it, after Saturday's game, the, erm, 10 1/2th in 36 days, Toronto FC will finally get a week off between games. In contrast, this will be merely the 6th game in that timeframe for the Philadelphia Union, so they'll definitely be a bit fresher for this game. But that's ok, the Union are only in their 2nd year as an expansion side, after starting from nothing, the same as TFC did, so they must be terrible right? *looks at table* Bugger!
Yes it's going to be another tough game for our tired heroes, as Philly are actually a good side this year, top of the Eastern Conference no less, a testament to the wisdom of doing things right from the start and going out and getting a two time MLS Cup winning coach/manager in Piotr Nowak.
A big part of their success this year has been goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, a Colombian international with a very impressive career who's become the foundation of a very stingy defence. They've only let in 7 goals in 10 games, which has allowed them to have 5 wins and 17 points despite only scoring 8 goals in those games. Having said that, they only have one win, and only one goal in 4 away games so far.
This game's got 0-0 written all over it doesn't it. At least we'll be able to have a good chuckle at the Union's shirt sponsors. Bimbo. I'll try and find other reason for hope and entertainment after the jump.
Let's see, hope and entertainment. Well, though it didn't quite work out against Vancouver, I think the combination of Mikael Yourassowsky at Left Back, Tony Tchani in Left Midfield and Joao Plata at Left Wing has a LOT of potential. Plata's had a few quiet games in a row now, presumably as teams have paid more attention and adapted to him. Yourassowsky and Tchani have both shown a willingness to help out and overlap down the left wing, which can only help Plata get a bit more space. At the time of writing it's unknown if Danleigh Borman is back from South Africa or not, but I doubt he'll be thrown right into the first team, so I think Yourassowsky wiill stay at Left Back and I'd say that side of the pitch is our best hope for something to happen to break down a tough Union defence.
I think it will be the same starting midfield and forwards as took the field against Vancouver. Maicon Santos had no joy against Jay DeMerit, but until Alan Gordon is available, there's really not many alternatives at Centre Forward, I really don't think we'll see a repeat of the Plata, Martina, Soolsma front line we saw in Colorado. Nick Soolsma has been doing well enough to keep his place ahead of Javier Martina at Right Wing, though I'd expect to see Martina making a second half substitution appearance, probably in place of Plata as that seems to be Winter's pattern. For the third midfield position, thought TFC seem less than forthcoming with injury news, MLSSoccer.com has Jacob Peterson listed as definitely out, so it'll probably be the underwhelming Alen Stevanovic.
The defence will more than likely be the same as well, though if it was up to me, there's one temporary change I'd make. I've been saying for a couple of weeks now that Adrian Cann looks really tired. He's been making more mistakes than usual and not playing to his usal high level. In the 'game' against Vancouver, he didn't look good, and it was his 'mistake' that led to Eric Hassli's 'goal'. I'd absolutely bring him back next week, but for now, I'd rest him, and bring in Nana Attakora, or even Ty Harden. I don't think that will happen though so I'll guess at an unchanged lineup, and unchanged team as a whole.
For Philadelphia, this may well be the return to Bmo Field of former TFC player Carlos Ruiz. He's been called up for Guatemala's Gold Cup squad so may not be making the trip, but if he does he's someone to watch out for, as opposed to his time in Toronto, he's actually playing well this season. If he's not playing it will probably be last year's top scorer Sebastian Le Toux up front together with 1st overall draft pick in 2010 Danny Mwanga. It sems strange that they've scored so few goals so far this year. Hopefully TFC can keep that going for at least one more game.
I think TFC will need to keep the Union off the scoresheet to end up getting something out of the game, as unless something changes up front, whether that's Plata getting back to the form he showed against Houston and Chicago, or Maicon Santos actually playing well for once, TFC will have a hard time getting anything against the Philly Defence. I can't really find a way to talk myself out of my initial reaction about this, I'm going for 0-0.