Photo: Ryan Johnson (right) fights Union's Sheanon Williams for a ball at BMO Field (Getty)
A lot has changed for Toronto FC since they last played the Philadelphia Union.
The Reds defeated the Union 1-0 at BMO Field May 26 on a goal in the 88th minute by Danny Koevermans, ending a nine-game losing streak, the worst start to a season in league history.
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Video: Toronto FC TV catches up with Ryan Johnson at the team hotel in Philadelphia.
It turned out to be the final game under head coach Aron Winter as well. Paul Mariner took over on June 7 and, in the six games since, TFC are 1-1-4. So they have a bit of momentum heading into Sunday’s rematch with Philly at PPL Park (on TSN at 4 p.m. ET).
Mariner said the turnaround has come down to one thing:
“Players,” the coach explained. “Players in comfort zones, players understanding what they're doing, knowing their role and knowing their job. The beauty about it is everybody knows what your job is, and if you don't do it, you get told. It's football.”
Mariner has simplified things for the players, replacing Winter’s 4-3-3 with a 4-4-2. It also helps that Koevermans has scored six goals in the past five games, making good on the more consistent service he’s gotten.
“Philly is a team that we’ve already got a win against this year,” said forward Ryan Johnson, who scored last season at PPL Park in a 1-1 draw in October. “Hopefully we can do it again. But at the same time they’re a good team and they’ve been in good form. It’s not going to be easy.”
The Union (4-9-2) also have a new leader in interim manager John Hackworth, and are coming off a big 2-1 away victory over the LA Galaxy on Wednesday.
One thing Toronto will try to avoid on Sunday is conceding an early goal. In their 1-1 draws in the past week against the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas, they were down a goal in the first five minutes.
“I just think stopping crosses could avoid those early goals,” midfielder Reggie Lambe said. “That’s how teams seem to score on us, so if we can take that away from them, I think we’ll be good.”