Strong Saturday Message From Mariner

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Results Needed

After a lacklustre midweek performance that drew strong disapproval from head coach Paul Mariner, Toronto FC will look to provide a more persuasive effort against Philadelphia Union at BMO Field on Saturday (TSN at 1 p.m. ET).

The 2-1 loss to Chicago on Wednesday saw Toronto fall behind by two goals before halftime. Mariner said there was "absolutely no excuse for the first half" in his postgame press conference. On Thursday, the coach put his team through a training session instead of the customary day off following a match. "You can only reason with people for a certain amount of time, and then you gotta bring the hammer down," Mariner told Toronto FC TV, "that's what I did."

"We're still a squad, we're still in it together," Mariner continued, hinting at possible lineup changes. "I told the whole squad for (Saturday) what the team is, if anyone's got any complaints about it, they know where my office is, door's wide open." Philadelphia comes into the match winless in six games, while Toronto hasn't seen a league victory in eight. Mariner challenged his players and renewed his commitment to reviving Toronto's fortunes. "The reason we play this game is because we love it and we want to win. If you don't want to win, don't put a red shirt on."

RJ Rejoins

On international duty with Jamaica this week, Ryan Johnson missed the Chicago match. His return should provide a boost to the Toronto attack though he arrives with the squad somewhat dispirited.

Asked about that on Friday, the veteran Johnson told the media "I've definitely had seasons like this, but you just can't take away from why you play the game and why you compete." With Eric Hassli healthy and returning to the score sheet this week, Johnson will likely be used as a wide option against Philadelphia. Fullback Ashtone Morgan will serve a one-game suspension on Saturday after picking up his fifth yellow card Wednesday, making Johnson's availability more vital to give TFC some width.

Another Return

Johnson isn't the only leader expected back in the Toronto lineup on Saturday. Terry Dunfield was away with Canada's World Cup Qualifying squad and Mariner will most likely rely on him to strengthen the midfield against Philadelphia.

Dunfield is aware of the disappointment felt by the coach and fans on Wednesday and he is determined to turn the tide. "I think all the players know we let the fans down," Dunfield said Friday. "We are ready to go Saturday ... to show everyone we are better than that." In Dunfield's absence Toronto started with two rookies at the centre of midfield in Luis Silva and Aaron Maund. Dunfield's return could allow Silva back to the second striker role where he helped to set-up Hassli's late second half strike on Wednesday during Toronto's finest spell of the match.

Backline Business

When Toronto last met Philadelphia at BMO Field on May 26, Reds recorded their first win of the season in a 1-0 victory. When the teams met again on July 8 in Chester, the Union hammered Toronto 3-0, which stands as the largest margin of defeat suffered by a Mariner-led Toronto team.

To make sure there is no repeat of the last encounter, one of the players singled out for a positive outing on Wednesday, defender Richard Eckersley, will be counted on to keep visiting attackers such as Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan and Jack McInerney quiet. To do that, the Englishman knows Toronto can't come out the way it did against Chicago. "There's no excuse for a performance like (Wednesday)," Eckersley admitted, "it was absolutely terrible."

The defender feels he and his teammates are ready to make up for it against Philadelphia, but they may have to do it without centre back Darren O'Dea, who Mariner revealed picked up a knock late against Chicago and his inclusion Saturday will be a matchday decision.

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