Toronto FC-Union Preview
After a stunning late rally in its last match, Toronto FC hopes to make another statement as one of the most improved teams in the league.
The Reds, however, could be without two key starters on Saturday when they take on a talented Philadelphia Union team on the road.
Trailing by a pair of goals in the 85th minute, Toronto FC (1-2-2) put together a furious late push to claim an unlikely 2-all draw with Western Conference-leader FC Dallas last Saturday.
Justin Braun scored on a header in his TFC debut before Darel Russell fired home the game-tying goal in the 90th minute for the Reds.
Toronto has been much better team early on than the one that finished with a league-low 23 points in 2012. The Reds have five points in five matches after needing 14 for the same amount last season.
"They are a good team," Union forward Antoine Hoppenot told the team's official website. "It's a completely different side from last year. We expect them to try to get forward and attack us. We'll be ready for that. It should be a good game."
Toronto, though, will be short-handed as it looks to build off its momentum and claim the franchise's first victory in Philadelphia.
Defender Richard Eckersley is expected to be a game-time decision after injuring his hamstring while celebrating the team's tying goal against Dallas. Midfielder Terry Dunfield will miss his second straight match because of an knee injury.
"Richard is kind of touch and go," coach Ryan Nelsen said. "We'll have to see with him. He is a quick healer, so hopefully with fingers crossed he'll be able to go."
Eckersley could be a big loss for the Reds as they attempt to contain dangerous Philadelphia forwards Jack McInerney and Conor Casey.
McInerney, who had eight goals in 25 matches last season, has three in his first five after stepping up with the team's lone tally in a 1-all draw at Columbus last Saturday.
Casey, a former Red, will try to add to his one goal on the season. He's scored five in his last six matches against Toronto.
Jose Kleberson, a Brazilian midfielder who has joined the club on loan from Esporte Clube Bahia, could make his MLS debut after failing to feature against the Crew.
While they finished eighth in the Eastern Conference last season, the Union (2-2-1) enter this contest in fifth place with a two-point lead over Toronto FC and New York.
"We're close in the standings right now," manager John Hackworth said. "It's a tale of two teams that weren't considered in the mix last year. Here we both sit with Saturday being an important game for both of us."
Hackworth's club will have to keep an eye on midfielder Luis Silva, who has stepped up with key assists in consecutive draws with Los Angeles and FC Dallas.
The Reds have scored seven goals over their last four games following a 1-0 loss at Vancouver in their season opener.
Toronto FC defender Danny Califf, meanwhile, returns to Philadelphia for the first time since his two-and-a-half year run as a key player for the Union from 2010-12.
"I'm looking forward to going back," Califf told the league's official website. "My family is going to come out from California, which is going to be awesome. I'm excited."
The Union are 3-2-2 all-time in this series, including 2-0-1 at PPL Park.