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Toronto FC hopes to break up the Union on Saturday, keep undefeated roll going

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There’s nothing brotherly about the way the club from the City of Brotherly Love has been treating MLS opponents.

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The first-place Philadelphia Union, who face host Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday night, are on a major roll, coming into T.O. on the strength of four straight shutout wins and five consecutive victories overall (a club record).

Coached by Jim Curtin, the Union (5-0-1) have 16 points from their first six matches, equaling the third-best start to a season in MLS history (Sporting KC in 2012 and LA Galaxy in 1996 – 18 points). The Union are 4-0-0 against conference opponents and are second in the Eastern Conference with 10 goals led by Daniel Gazdag with four.

“That is a team that battles. They have their identity and they’ve had it in place for a few years now,” said TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “We know what we’re up against. I don’t think they have that record by luck. So we have our hands full. But at the same time, it’s a great challenge for us at this point of the season. Playing at home against a team that’s undefeated, that’s motivation in itself. So tough game, but
I know we’re going to be up for it. A good test to see where we’re at and a win against these guys could do a lot for us.

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“They’re fast in transition,” said TFC coach Bob Bradley, when asked to break down the Union. “They make hard runs behind the defence, they hit long balls, they move up fast, they get guys in the box.

Some of those are Red Bull ideas. Ernst Tanner, their sport director, had been part of Red Bull in Europe and so they’ve taken some of those ideas and Jim’s found a way to mix them with some of his own. But the ability to play forward, get people into the box, go fast, those are things that you have to deal with.”

TFC is also on a roll heading into Saturday’s match, having won its last two. The Reds (2-2-2) are undefeated in their last three. Curtin, for one has been impressed.

“You can see right now the way that they play, they’re very dangerous, they’re really all comfortable and good on the ball,” said the Philly manager. “You see a lot of Bob’s ideas and he’s actually giving young players an opportunity. I think he doesn’t get brought up enough as a guy who’s willing to give young players a chance. He did it in Chicago when I was there as a player, with DaMarcus Beasley and then with Carlos Bocanegra. And he has real belief and trust in young players and there’s no better coach to develop your talent. And you see with Toronto a lot of good young homegrowns, a lot of real potential on the field in guys that are playing big minutes for them. They have a really good blend of experience and youth. They play the right way, they’re going to be difficult to play against. They’re coming off some real positive results.”

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NOTES: Jayden Nelson’s 79th minute goal against Real Salt Lake last weekend was scored from over 35 metres out — the furthest out a goal has been scored by Toronto since Michael Bradley scored from nearly 42 meters in September 2014 against Portland … The Reds have to be ultra careful with Philly forward Sérgio Santos on Saturday One third of his MLS goals (6/18) have been scored against TFC, including his only career hat-trick in MLS play, record in Oct. 2020. No other player has scored more than four goals against the Reds since Santos debuted in MLS in 2019.

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