At first glance, Saturday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Union (2-6-2) and Toronto FC (0-9-0) seems to be nothing more than a pair of cellar dweller teams scrapping for any points they can get. Philadelphia would love points away from home right now, and Toronto is just hoping to get anything from this match, despite it being in the confines of BMO Field. However, this match is extremely pivotal for both teams, especially Philadelphia.
All season long, Peter Nowak’s side has struggled to score, and their dismal record reflects that. However, this could have been expected because of the comings and goings of the squad. Nowak showed numerous players the door in the offseason (notably fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux) and more recently Danny Califf, who now anchors Chivas USA’s defense. Common sense says that it would take time for the new team to gel, but no one thought it would take more than a few games. Now, ten games in, the Union are still struggling to find the form that took them to the playoffs last year. Despite that, there are signs of improvement.
The offense has sputtered to life in recent weeks, having scored five goals in their last three games, which was unheard of early in the year. Lionard Pajoy is starting to turn into the scorer that the Union thought they bought, and Panamanian international Gabriel Gomez continued his good start to the year by equalizing late to salvage a draw at FC Dallas. Ray Gaddis has been a rookie revelation, but others need to step up if they want to make a run. This game at Toronto is a definitive turning point for the Union.
Any type of points would be welcome for Philadelphia, but a winless Toronto side has the Union eyeing up all three points. Win, and they are back on the outskirts of being a playoff contender. Tie, and they will still be a long way off from any real hopes of reaching the playoffs for the second consecutive year. A loss would be catastrophic, almost ensuring their fate as regular season contestants only.
(image courtesy of Donald Montague)