Week 18 Preview: Union vs. Toronto FC

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Union stay at home to host 10th place Toronto FC, still searching for those elusive three points that could propel them from fifth to second place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Currently on a seven-game unbeaten streak, the Boys In Blue have been recording a frustrating amount of ties. While the defense has been doing their job (and looking much more disciplined since the return of Andre Blake), the same can’t exactly be said for the offense. While they looked more intense and applied more pressure against the Chicago Fire on Sunday, they still only had one goal out of 25 shots to show for it.

That will be the main concern for this game (as it should be for every game, really): goals. Should the Union get three points against Toronto, they will be level on points with current second place Orlando City SC, and goal differential will be the main decider of who gets to claim the second spot in the standings.

Sergio Santos will be available for selection again after serving a one-game suspension, which will bolster the team up front, but it’s entirely possible that someone essential will be missing at the tip of the midfield diamond—Jamiro Monteiro. Jim Curtin confirmed that Monteiro is in transfer talks, with several clubs (including an unnamed Western Conference MLS team) vying for his signature. While this opens up a myriad of options for that No. 10 spot—Daniel Gazdag, Quinn Sullivan, and Paxten Aaronson are all equipped to play that position—it’ll be tricky for Curtin to figure out which player works best with which striker pairing. It doesn’t help that the Union simply aren’t in a comfortable enough position to be experimenting with their already disjointed attack. Perhaps if they were eight points clear at the top of the table (like the New England Revolution)…but they’re not.

On Toronto’s side, a less-than-ideal start to the 2021 season lead the team to sack head coach Chris Armas in early July. Armas’ assistant coach Javier Perez has been serving as the interim coach, and currently has the team on a five-game unbeaten streak.

Predicted Lineup: Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Daniel Gazdag, Sergio Santos, Cory Burke

  • With Monteiro looking to move away from Philadelphia, it’s not looking likely that he’ll feature in the starting lineups going forward. While Sullivan and Aaronson could also function as No. 10 midfielders, Gazdag is the most experienced and reliable choice. He’s proven that he can greatly influence the Union’s decision making in the final third, providing that European flair that Monteiro will take with him when he leaves. It would be a fairly controversial decision to demote Kacper Przybylko to the bench, but he hasn’t been looking all that threatening lately. Burke was splendid against Chicago, and…well…Santos is really the only other option as a true striker.

Score Prediction: The Union have slowly but surely been finding their footing again, and Toronto could very well gift them the three points they so desperately need. A home match with a slightly rearranged starting lineup could be just the tonic the Union need to start raking in the goals, making for a convincing 3-1 victory.