Revived Teams Set To Clash In Chester

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Maintaining Form

A pair of teams with new coaches and a chance at reviving their respective 2012 MLS campaigns clash on Sunday afternoon when Toronto FC visits Chester, Pennsylvania to face Philadelphia Union (TSN, 4 p.m. ET).

Toronto is unbeaten in five matches (one win, four draws) under Paul Mariner, while Philadelphia is coming off a 2-1 victory over LA Galaxy on the road and a shocking 4-0 triumph against Kansas City in its last league match at PPL Park. The Reds pulled off a 1-0 win when the teams met earlier this season at BMO Field, but with the guidance of interim coach John Hackworth, the Union lately becoming more adventurous in the opposition third in recent weeks.

Last season in this fixture Toronto received a goal from Ryan Johnson to quiet a MLS Cup Playoffs-bound Philadelphia crowd in a 1-1 draw. Despite already having registered a win against Sunday's opponent, Johnson doesn't take Philadelphia lightly. "It's a team that we already (beat), and hopefully we can do it again," the Jamaica international, who has played every minute for Toronto in 2012, said this week. "They are a good team and they've been in good form. It won't be easy."

Koef Good To Go

Johnson makes up one half of a potentially dynamic MLS strike partnership with red-hot forward Danny Koevermans. The two have 16 goals in all competition in 2012, with Koevermans contributing six in the last five games.

Mariner revealed to Toronto FC TV that Koevermans feels fine to play Sunday after the Dutchman experienced some discomfort in the knee toward the end of a 1-1 midweek draw in Dallas. His 88th minute goal separated Toronto from Philadelphia when the clubs met on May 26, with the Reds earning a result that put an end to a record-worst 0-9 start to an MLS season under previous boss Aron Winter. It was also confirmed by Mariner that midfielder Terry Dunfield has made progress since injuring his eye in Wednesday's match and should also expect to see action Sunday.

Henry Rejoins Reds

A further boost to the squad arrived this weekend when centre back Doneil Henry flew in from Toronto to meet his teammates ahead of Sunday's contest. The 19-year old had an ailment that caused him to miss two games.

"I've been sick, out of it, but still supporting the boys," Henry said on Saturday after Toronto finished training in close to 100°F (37°C) heat in suburban Philadelphia. His timing could prove fortuitous as Richard Eckersley cut training short with a stomach issue. Eckersley has been holding down a regular centre back spot since Adrian Cann suffered a knee sprain. His inclusion against Philadelphia will depend on his health, though Henry stands ready if called on to replace the Englishman in the middle of the backline.

"I just want to come out (Sunday), in the heat - whatever circumstances - and play our best."

Complete Performance

In both matches Henry missed, Toronto was victimized early by conceding goals in the opening minutes against New York and Dallas. To their credit, Reds pressed with urgency and equalized in the first half on both occasions for a pair of 1-1 draws.

Toronto would be good value to turn single points into three during this run of games if they could eliminate defensive lapses. Winger Reggie Lambe, who started in both of these games on the right side of midfield contends "stopping crosses could avoid those early goals." On the Dallas strike, talented Brazilian attacker Jackson managed to float a ball into the box while Lambe was trying to close him down. Two touches later that ball was in behind Milos Kocic courtesy of Zach Loyd. Four days earlier, New York's Jan Gunnar Solli had Kocic beat on a volley after converting an early cross from Brandon Barklage.

"If we can take (those crosses) away from teams, I think we should be good," Lambe concluded indicating that the team is focused on eradicating these errors.

The Opposition

The Officials

Paul Ward will lead the referees out of the tunnel on Sunday. He has average 23.2 fouls and 3.7 yellow cards per game through 35 matches in charge according to MLSsoccer.com. Ward has seen 11 players off with a red card and has called seven penalties. Jason Cullum and Matthew Nelson will be Ward's assistants while Mark Kadlecik is the fourth official on the day.