Philly Sports Live

Match Preview: Listless Union Stagger into Toronto

On paper, the month of May seemed like a positive one for the Union, as they went 3-2-1 in all competitions, including Tuesday night’s 2-1 US Open Cup win over the PDL’s Ocean City Nor’Easters to advance to that tournament’s fourth round.

And, on paper, it would seem like the Union (5-5-3) would go into Toronto’s BMO Field this Saturday and wipe the floor with the Reds, who are just two points clear of the Eastern Conference’s — and the league’s — wooden spoon.

But soccer is not played on paper, it is played on the field.  And the team on the field is playing downright ugly soccer.  All six games in May have not been pretty, especially the Ocean City game which was won in the dying embers of the game.  The two losses exposed holes in the defense, which started the season well, but which allowed 11 goals in the month’s five league games — including four to L.A. and a team record five last Saturday in Montréal — and dropped Philadelphia to next-to-last in goals allowed with 23, just one ahead of Chivas USA.

The numbers and opposing strikers can’t be the only things that have unsettled the defense, though.  The trades of both Gabe Farfan and Bakary Soumaré, as well as the injury to Jeff Parke, have worn out the back line and left it to little more than a nub.  And there has not been much help from the calendar, either, as two stretches of three games in eight days have left little time for recovery.

For their part, Toronto (1-7-4) has seen a mediocre season go from ‘worse’ to ‘horrible.’  After starting 1-2 and then gaining four draws, (one of which a 1-1 result at PPL Park on April 13th), the Reds has dropped five games straight.  Their offense has not scored more than two goals a game all season, and has not had a multi-goal game since April 6th when they fought to a 2-2 draw at home against L.A.  They have missed veteran Danny Koevermans, who is slowly working his way back to the roster after an ACL injury last season, and their young lineup has struggled to cope.

Somewhere, lurking in the background of the game, is the spector of the return of former Union captain and fan favorite Danny Califf to Philadelphia.  If nothing else, it would give the Union some depth, and would give it an extra veteran presence, though there is some interest in what exactly the Union would be giving up to get the aging center back.

The five game TFC losing streak, the general turmoil that the franchise is in, and the fact that the Union have scored in six of seven road games would seem to point to a Union win.  However, the fact that the “U” have not won in Toronto since their 6-2 outburst over the Reds in May, 2011 and that they have already drawn them at home this year turns those points on their head.

In any event, kick-off for the second of three meetings between the two struggling sides will be Saturday, June 1st at 6:30pm with the game being shown locally on The Comcast Network.  Philly Sports Live and The Soccer Desk will be at BMO for the game, and will have a full wrap up this weekend.