Union-Toronto FC Preview
After putting his name into the MLS record books, Toronto FC first-year player Sebastian Giovinco could soon put the MVP debate to rest by capturing the league’s golden boot.
The red-hot midfielder continues that pursuit Saturday against a visiting Philadelphia Union team looking to recover from a heartbreaking defeat in the U.S. Open Cup final.
Following a lengthy tenure with Juventus in his native Italy, Giovinco has played a leading role in Toronto’s emergence this season. He became the first player in league history to reach 20 goals and double-digit assists last Saturday when he broke the single-season points record in a 3-2 win over Chicago.
Giovinco tied the mark of 34, set by San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski in 2012, by scoring his 20th goal in the 29th minute before eclipsing the mark with an assist on Michael Bradley’s goal in the 59th. Jozy Altidore, second on the team with 11 goals, scored the winner in the 79th.
While he’s already considered the favorite in the MVP race, Giovinco can erase all doubt by catching Kei Kamara (22) of Columbus for the league’s golden boot. Should they finish in a tie, Giovinco would get the award since he has 15 assists to Kamara’s eight.
Giovinco appears to have a good chance to move closer Saturday. He’s scored three times in his last two matches overall and in both against the Union this year, a 1-0 win at Philadelphia on May 2 and a 2-1 home victory July 18 when he also assisted on Marco Delgado’s goal.
Toronto had been 0-4-3 in the previous seven meetings before winning both this season.
"Generally their team is a little bit similar to Chicago and Colorado in that they defend well, they defend in numbers and they’re quick to get out in transition," Reds coach Greg Vanney told the team’s official website.
Toronto (13-13-4) hasn’t finished higher than seventh in Eastern Conference in the past four seasons but currently sits fifth, in position for the first postseason berth in franchise history. The Reds, 9-4-1 at home, also seek their first three-game winning streak since May 23-June 6.
Philadelphia (9-15-7), ninth in the East, has gone 2-0-2 over its last four road games. The club, though, will have to regroup after Wednesday’s painful 1-1 (7-6) home loss to Sporting Kansas City in the eighth round of penalty kicks to fall in the U.S. Open Cup final for the second consecutive year.
"I say this very professionally: we kicked their butts," midfielder Michael Lahoud said. "On a different day, we embarrass Kansas City. But (it) was their day."
C.J. Sapong, who has a team-high nine goals, has scored in each of his last two MLS contests. Sapong, however, should be motivated to bounce back after failing to convert some key chances Wednesday.
This is the club’s first match since announcing it has parted ways with CEO Nick Sakiewicz. Union Chief Revenue Officer Dave Rowan will assume day-to-day business operations in the interim.