Tied with each other for second-fewest goals scored in MLS, the Union and TFC will try to put some rare balls in the net and points on the board when they face off at BMO Field in Toronto on Friday.
The Union, embarking on a stretch of three straight on the road beginning with the match against Toronto, are hoping last weekend’s 3-2 triumph over D.C. United sparks some momentum as the season heads into its third month.
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The team overcame an early deficit to take the lead, only to concede the equalizer midway through the second half. But newcomer Borek Dockal’s first MLS goal in the 72nd minute gave Philadelphia (2-3-2) its first win since its season opener and came just two minutes after D.C. tied the game.
It was the first time the Union scored three goals in a game this season and snapped a five-game winless streak during which they scored only one goal.
“This locker room has stuck together through a tough beginning to the season and each player has each other’s back, something which showed through (Saturday) on the field,” head coach Jim Curtin told reporters after the game. “They didn’t waiver, didn’t get high or too low and stuck together. But yes, getting that goal and three points definitely has everyone with a smile on their faces as we prepare for a big road trip coming up.”
While the goals have been hard to come by, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort. The Union have held the advantage in the possession battle in six of their seven games and earned a split in the one game they didn’t. They’ve hit double-digit shot totals in five games and recorded nine shots in the other two matches.
“It’s important but ultimately it comes down to executing and getting the goals,” forward CJ Sapong told reporters after Saturday’s game. “We’ve been in that position many times this season where we’ve had a lot of possessions but the results still didn’t go our way. I’m very excited and I think everybody is very excited to see some balls went into the net and we had even more chances and opportunities so hopefully we can build on that.”
Toronto, meanwhile, will be looking to build on its start against the Chicago Fire, which saw the club jump out to a 2-0 lead within the first 25 minutes. But the early lead disappeared in the second half through stoppage time, leaving TFC (1-4-1) to settle for a draw.
“Today’s game was about decisive moments and we didn’t get the right end of the decisive moments,” coach Greg Vanney told reporters after the game.
It’s been a struggle for the defending MLS Cup champions so far in 2018. Not helping matters has been the seemingly endless string of injuries, most notably to their backline. The latest long-term casualty is defender Drew Moor, who is expected to miss two to three months with a torn quadriceps.
With the injury bug taking a big bite, TFC captain Michael Bradley will shift from his usual spot in the central midfield to center back.
“Michael’s been enormous in our ability to adapt to certain circumstances, whether they are in-game circumstances or injury circumstances, whatever that is,” Vanney told The Athletic. “He’s a great soccer player so he’s been able to assume a lot of responsibilities for us and that’s been huge.”