Point will put Philly in playoffs
The Philadelphia Union's recent unbeaten stretch has allowed them to overcome a long winless streak that put their postseason chances in jeopardy.
Now atop the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia looks to clinch a playoff berth with a win or tie Saturday against visiting Toronto FC, which it dominated in the most recent meeting.
The Union (11-7-14) extended their unbeaten run to 3-0-4 with a 2-0 win over Seattle last Saturday, moving them back into first in the East. Philadelphia had gone 0-3-5 from July 29-Sept. 10.
"Right now, we're just thinking about first place," defender Sheanon Williams told the team's official website. "The guys really want to be in first place. If we're in first place, then guess what? We're in the playoffs. So that should be our first goal."
A matchup with Toronto could provide a good opportunity for Philadelphia to build on its recent success. The Union set a club record for goals in a 6-2 victory in the latest matchup May 28, as Justin Mapp and Danny Mwanga each scored twice.
Mwanga, though, has missed the last four games with a strained right hip flexor. He hopes to be in the lineup Saturday.
Sebastien Le Toux had two assists in the May contest versus Toronto, and his stellar play has been a major reason for his team's current run. Le Toux has nine goals and two assists in his last 11 games.
Toronto, coming off a 1-all home draw with New York on Oct. 1, is 1-9-6 on the road and has been eliminated from postseason contention.
"I think this is the game of the year for us," Union forward Veljko Paunovic said. "We know what that means. We have to play 100 percent and not underestimate Toronto because we're in the position we're in and they're in the position they're in."
Toronto (6-13-13) has beaten two other East playoff hopefuls - Houston on May 7 and Columbus on Sept. 10.
"We beat top teams in the East already, so there's no reason why we can't do it against Philly," forward Ryan Johnson said.
That mentality is not lost on the Union.
"Toronto has nothing in play, which makes them more dangerous because we have a lot," Paunovic said.
Toronto coach Aron Winter has stressed staying focused on the task at hand, rather than looking ahead to next year.
"First of all, I don't want to think next season because I've got three other games, including the CONCACAF game (Oct. 18 at Dallas), which is also important," he said. "We want to be focused first on those three games and after the last game, then we can think about next season."