The Philadelphia Union, dumped out of last year’s playoffs by Toronto FC at the first hurdle, will be looking for payback when the Canadian team comes to visit Saturday.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney, meanwhile, is looking for his MLS team to improve on last week’s scoreless tie at Real Salt Lake.
“Coming out of the last game there’s plenty of things we have to work on,” said Vanney, who seemed more concerned about his team than the opposition.
“We think we have things that we’ve got to improve upon regardless of whether it’s Philadelphia or anyone else across the field from us. But I do think they have a good team. They looked well-organized, they looked very disciplined in their approach last week (in a 0-0 draw at Vancouver) and made it difficult for Vancouver to create chances.”
The Union held the Whitecaps to one shot on target at B.C. Place Stadium.
Toronto had chances against Real Salt Lake. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando saved a Sebastian Giovinco penalty and robbed Jozy Altidore from in-close.
Toronto players suggested a single point was not a bad takeaway from the hostile ground and high attitude of Rio Tinto Stadium. Vanney didn’t necessarily disagree but wants more from his squad.
“We’ve got to be more engaged and have more intensity,” he said.
Captain Michael Bradley saw positives in the Real Salt Lake game but agreed the team has a higher gear.
“We were by and large comfortable but I don’t think we played anywhere close to the level where we can play,” he said. “So (training) this week was just about sharpening up on little details and really feeling, as we get on the field this weekend, that we’re taking another big step forward.”
Toronto fullback Steven Beitashour, who took a ball to the face late in last week’s game, is a question mark after going through the league’s concussion protocol.
“He’s progressed the way he’s supposed to,” Vanney said prior to leaving for Philadelphia.
Marky Delgado would be the likely replacement if needed, with Tsubasa Endoh in reserve.
Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, who made his MLS debut in the 61st minute last week, is likely to see more action. French-born Congolese defender Chris Mavinga, back from the birth of his daughter in France, could also play a part.
While Toronto started the same 11 last week as it did in the MLS Cup final, Philadelphia’s starting 11 against Vancouver featured just seven players from the 3-1 playoff loss in Toronto last October. The new faces were defender Oguchi Onyewu, midfielders Haris Medunjanin and Derrick Jones, and forward Jay Simpson.
At six foot four and 210 pounds, Onyewu is a big experienced centre back who may give Altidore the kind of smothering attention he got last week from the six-foot-four 205-pound Chris Schuler.
“Gooch (Onyewu) is a big strong guy. I think he’s going to want to try to keep the game in front of him and try to keep the game, at the right moments, physical,” said Vanney.
NOTES: Giovinco has five goals in five career games against the Union … U.S. international midfielder Alejandro Bedoya has two goals in 12 regular-season and playoff games since joining the Union last August. Both strikes came against Toronto … Philadelphia has a 4-2-2 career mark against Toronto at Talen Energy Stadium.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press