Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Knockout Round) – Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union
Venue: BMO Field – Wednesday, October 26 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)
Match Odds: Toronto 4/6 – Draw 11/4 – Philadelphia 15/4
Toronto won their first game in six on the final day of the regular season on Sunday, but Philadelphia fell 2-0 at home to the Red Bulls and are now winless in seven coming into the postseason.
Toronto are heavy favourites to advance here. This is just their second-ever playoff appearance, but they will be desperate to do better than last season’s Knockout Round exit at the hands of Montreal.
Greg Vanney knows his side should be winning this game but he must ensure his players stick to the gameplan and avoid any silly mistakes if they are to advance to the Conference Semifinals on Sunday.
For Jim Curtin and his Philadelphia side, this is a worrying position to be in. Yes, they are in the playoffs and will be thrilled to have held on to a top six finish. But at the same time, they are in horrendous form and look to be dead and buried before this one has even started.
That does mean the pressure is slightly off them though, and they may look to take advantage of the fact that Toronto need to take the game to them on Wednesday night.
The Union earned a 1-1 draw at Toronto just over a month ago and will be looking to frustrate the hosts again here in what should be an intriguing opener to the 2016 MLS Playoffs.
Toronto have just the one injury concern as Ashtone Morgan remains a doubt as he continues to recover from foot surgery. Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore look set to continue in attack, with Michael Bradley playing behind in midfield.
Philadelphia Union are fortunate to only have one player ruled out here too, with Joshua Yaro still sidelined with concussion as well as a knee sprain. Jim Curtin had six players overcome knocks to be involved in the final-day loss against the Red Bulls and will need to pick his best possible team to have any chance of getting a result here.
Toronto FC’s last five: D/D/L/D/W
Philadelphia Union’s last five: L/D/L/L/L
Key Stat: Philadelphia have not beaten Toronto in any of their last five clashes in MLS, losing four of those to Wednesday’s hosts. The Reds had won four on the bounce against the Union before their 1-1 draw a month ago.
Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Atomic Ant is well and truly back for Toronto. He spent around six weeks on the sidelines but is back just in time for the playoffs and will be looking to fire the Reds to success over the next few weeks. Philadelphia will struggle to cope with his attacking threat if he’s on song and he’ll be the centre of attention for sure.
Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union – Neither of these sides come into the playoffs in the sort of form they would want, but home advantage is always a huge factor, especially in the single-legged Knockout Round. Toronto are tough to break down and have Giovinco back at their disposal, so they shouldn’t have too much trouble brushing the Union aside here.