Toronto FC looks to extend domination of Union

With defending MLS Cup champions Toronto FC still trying to get their season on track, a journey to face the Philadelphia Union on Friday night in Chester, Pa., may be a welcome prospect.

Toronto (3-7-2) is unbeaten with a 6-0-2 record in its last eight league meetings against Philadelphia (5-6-3), a stretch that includes a 3-0 victory in Toronto just over a month ago.

“I think it’s taking each game as it is and trying to execute on the day,” said Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney. “There’s no real specific reason. I think they’re a good team, but I think we match up pretty well in terms of the guys we have.”

Italian playmaker Sebastian Giovinco has scored six goals and added two assists in seven matches against Philadelphia, including one of each in that win in May.

But instead of proving an early turning point in the Reds’ season, that decisive victory lingers as a rare reminder of the dominance Toronto was capable of in 2017.

An injury-plagued TFC side has gone 1-3-1 since, and last weekend gave back a three-goal lead in a 3-3 draw at Columbus Crew SC.

Forward Jozy Altidore and defenders Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga are among those who remain injured and unavailable this week.

“Nothing is just as simple as missing guys,” Vanney said. “I think collectively our mentality to protect our box and not allow teams to get into our box has to be a little stronger. And that’s how we defend from front to back.”

Meanwhile, Philadelphia was unbeaten in four matches before a bizarre 3-1 loss at Atlanta in which two ejections saw the Union quickly reduced to just nine men.

Midfielders Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya were ejected, and they’ll have to serve suspensions in Friday’s game against Toronto.

However, midfielder Borek Dockal believes Philadelphia will still be able to create opportunities, in part because of how they were able to respond and keep last weekend’s match respectable

“If we are going to play like we’ve played the last couple of games, we’re definitely going to create some chances,” said Dockal, who has two goals and five assists in his last five matches. “And hopefully I’m going to come to some chances also.”

The question is whether Philadelphia can stifle Giovinco on the other end.

“Giovinco is a great player, smart,” said Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake. “We just have to try to limit him as much as possible, try to stop his source of getting the ball, and see how much we can (force) him to play it back, which I think is going to be very difficult. But I think it’s a task, and we’re up for it.”