Union-Toronto FC Preview

PAUL DIGIACOMO (STATS Senior Editor)
The Associated Press

Philadelphia and Toronto FC are among the many teams jockeying for playoff position in the Eastern Conference, but while the Union have been rolling along lately, Toronto is slumping and getting acclimated to a coaching change.

Philadelphia looks to win three in a row for the second time in franchise history by beating Toronto for the second time this week Saturday.

The Union (8-9-9) and Toronto (9-10-6) each have 33 points, but Toronto is in fourth place in the East while Philadelphia is just out of the playoff picture in sixth due to tiebreakers.

Philadelphia matched Toronto in points with a 1-0 win in the opener of this home-and-home series Wednesday. Conor Casey scored in the 55th minute to spoil Greg Vanney's debut as Toronto coach and help the host Union improve to 4-1-3 in their last eight matches.

"We're a confident club," defender Sheanon Williams told the Union's official website. "We're even-keeled and staying the course with each game. In this league, you can't get too high or too low. We've continued to put in the work, stayed the course and we're in a good position down the stretch to make things happen."

Toronto is heading in the opposite direction, losing two straight and going 0-3-1 in its last four. Vanney took over for Ryan Nelsen, who was fired Sunday following a 3-0 home loss to New England a day earlier.

"I thought the team put out a great effort, first of all," Vanney told Toronto FC's official website. "I thought we worked hard from the beginning all the way through to the end. I can't fault the effort from the guys; it's been an emotional couple days and they laid it all on the field."

With Toronto having a few more practices to absorb the tactical changes being made by Vanney, Williams expects the host club to play at a higher level.

"It's definitely different playing them twice in a short amount of time," he said. "We have work to do and we know how big this game is on Saturday. We understand what's at stake."

Philadelphia, which won three straight for the first time July 4-14, 2012, is 3-0-3 in the last six meetings and has held Toronto scoreless in the past two.

The Union, however, have won once in five all-time visits to Toronto and are 0-2-2 in their past four on the road. Toronto has that same record in its last four at home.

Midfielder Sebastien Le Toux leads the Union with 11 goals, with five coming in the last seven matches. He also has four assists over the past two, including one Wednesday on an impressive cross to Casey.

"I'm happy first that we got the win and three points," Le Toux said. "We need as many points as possible at this part of the season."