Toronto Tackles Philadelphia Before Break

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Veteran Poise

Toronto FC players are confident they can build on their recent success in the Amway Canadian Championship and transfer it to Major League Soccer for much needed first points of 2012, when they host Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field (Sportsnet One at 4:30 p.m. ET).

"When you win everybody is happy, when you lose nobody is happy," forward Danny Koevermans told the media on Friday. He found the target for his second goal in the league during Toronto's last MLS outing, a losing effort away to D.C. United. Feeling fit again after a groin injury sidelined him for a month, the veteran is poised to make the most of his chance when given.

Koevermans' teammate midfielder Terry Dunfield feels Toronto can "sign off" with a win to start the international break. He refuses to take Philadelphia - owner of the league's second worst record to Toronto - for granted, calling them "a strong, physical side" and expecting "a tough game" on Saturday.  Dunfield hopes to get the fans excited again as they were Wednesday in the 1-0 victory over Vancouver that secured a fourth straight Voyageurs Cup and a place in the CONCACAF Champions League. Koevermans was more succinct saying, "If we win tomorrow, then I'm happy." 

Winter Without Avila

Head coach Aron Winter admitted that he felt "relief" after winning his second Voyageurs Cup medal in as many years. The boss has seen his club perform at a high level in three of the last four matches in all competition, the single glitch in that string of games coming in Washington last week.

"We've prepared ourselves very well for the game (Saturday)," Winter said after training Friday. Last season the Union devastated Toronto 6-2 at BMO Field, but that Philadelphia side has been dismantled. Despite that Winter still considers the visitors to be a quality side but is adamant that the drubbing suffered a year ago is "not going to happen again."

On the injury front, Winter confirmed that Eric Avila is set to miss the game with what he described as an ankle contusion. The playmaking midfielder has been a regular first team choice since impressing off the bench on April 14 against Chivas USA. His run of eight consecutive starts in all competition looked set to end when Avila was helped off the pitch at the hour mark on Wednesday.

The coach further verified that captain Torsten Frings is eligible for selection against Philadelphia after recovering from a lingering shoulder injury to play 90 minutes in the cup final.

A Focused Defence

Although Avila is out, two other players that have found a regular place in the starting lineup recently, fullback Jeremy Hall and centre back Doneil Henry, hope to not only get Toronto on the MLS win column, but keep the opposition off the score sheet as well.

No points means Toronto hasn't been able to keep the other team at bay in the league, but in cup play the Reds have achieved three clean sheets and were a minute shy of a fourth but for an Eric Hassli wonder goal in Vancouver. When asked about the difference, Hall alluded to Wednesday saying "we were locked in it for 90 minutes, we fought, we covered for each other." A physical toll was paid in a highly charged affair at midweek, Hall conceded. "It's going to be tough on Saturday, legs are heavy, we put a lot out there (Wednesday)." Regardless of fatigue, three points is a must for the defender heading into the break that will give most Toronto players time to recover.

Echoing his teammate, Henry said it is "very important" to get the win. The Canadian is already looking ahead to more games in the summer and wants three points to give Toronto "a boost," hoping the Reds "can comeback firing in the second half." When asked about his plans for the break, Henry said it was to "keep playing soccer."

Hall's emergence as a first choice fullback has come at the expense of Richard Eckersley. This is a good problem to have for Toronto, competition in the backline had been scarce in previous seasons. The Englishman is a team player and stressed the club must keep focus on oppositon threats to give the team an opportunity to win. "If we can limit the chances that we give to the other team," Eckersley said,  "it gives ourselves a massive chance."

The Opposition

The Officials

Referee for Saturday's match is Juan Guzman. According to MLSsoccer.com in 13 career league matches, Guzman has called 26.5 fouls and 3.8 yellow cards per game. He has shown six red cards and pointed to the spot four times. Last time Guzman was in charge of a Philadelphia match, Union players saw two red cards (Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan) and three yellows in a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on April 21.

Guzman's assistants are Brian Poeschel and Steven Taylor. The fourth official is Daniel Fitzgerald.