The Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer has been incredibly tight this entire season. The top of the standings and those just on the outside of the playoffs have often been separated by just a handful of points.
This has been evident for Toronto FC, who recently took a big leap up the standings after winning all four games of their recent homestand. With just a couple of months left in the regular season, every point picked up down the stretch is going to be crucial.
With that in mind, Toronto FC has a big opportunity to cement their place at the upper end of the Eastern Conference standings today when they visit the Philadelphia Union. In fact, from a points perspective, this could be the biggest match of their current three-game road trip.
If they are going to win on the road, it would be best to do it today. The Union sit just three points behind them in the Eastern Conference standings, and will be one of the teams Toronto FC will hope to hold off as they fight for the top spot.
They are just one point shy of being number one in the Eastern Conference, a spot they couldn’t take last weekend when they drew the Houston Dynamo. They could have another chance today, provided New York City drops points against the LA Galaxy this afternoon.
The Union will be feeling refreshed coming into this match on many fronts. After winning just once in all of July, they stomped the New England Revolution 4-0 last weekend. It was their biggest win of the season, and they will be hoping it gives them the momentum for a late season push.
Another momentum boost will come from the big addition of American international Alejandro Bedoya was recently signed as a designated player. The attacking midfielder adds another dimension to the Union attack, and seems to fit in quite well with what they are building.
This was supposed to be a transitional year for the Philadelphia Union, after a brutal 2015 season that saw them finish 18th in the league. This year, however, one of the best offences in the league has made them a playoff team once again.
Chris Pontius is enjoying a revival season in Philadelphia, and leads the team in scoring with 10 goals. C.J. Sapong and Roland Alberg are the other danger men for the Union, as they have seven and eight goals respectively.
The Union will be looking for revenge after losing all three of the meetings between these two teams last season. Sebastian Giovinco caused big problems for the Union, as he has for most teams in Major League Soccer, getting a goal in all three of those matches.
Toronto FC can expect to have a number of players back in the lineup for this match, as the news was good following a rough outing in Houston. Both Justin Morrow and Mark Bloom went down to injury in that match, but only Bloom will be out long-term.
Morrow could return to the starting lineup today, and so could fellow fullback Steven Beitashour and centreback Eriq Zavaleta. Toronto FC will also be getting Dan Lovitz back into the fold, who has been missing since the Canadian Championships. Ditto for Will Johnson, who could see his first action since scoring the Voyageurs Cup winning goal.
Projected Starting Eleven