Toronto FC sit in an interesting position with half the season in the books.
The Reds are in a playoff spot in the muddled Eastern Conference. They have 11 home games remaining and have games in hand.
Offensively, they’ve been as dynamic as any team in the league but the defence remains a work in progress.
The retirement of Steven Caldwell means TFC is in the market for another central defender. They also wouldn’t be averse to adding an outside wingback.
Saturday’s clash against the Philadelphia Union is a six-pointer with major implications on the East playoff picture.
A win at BMO Field would give the Reds a chance to separate themselves from the pack. A loss and TFC will be in that very same pack, hoping to claw their way back to the top of the Conference.
Here are three keys for match
Altidore Up Top With Giovinco
Jozy Altidore was replaced by Alan Gordon for the Gold Cup knockout stage by Jurgen Klinsmann.
The move came as a surprise to some, but not Altidore. Klinsmann cited Altidore’s lack of fitness after returning from a hamstring injury. One report indicated the Reds wanted to keep Jozy in Toronto so he could improve his fitness for the knockout stage.
What we do know for sure is that Jozy is back in Toronto and ready to help the Reds in their playoff push.
“I’m happy to be back, I missed Toronto,” said Altidore following training on Thursday. “I look forward to playing on Saturday.”
Altidore declared himself to be 80 percent fit for Saturday’s match. A 65 to 70 minute shift from Jozy will go a long way to helping the Reds secure three points.
Osorio Leading The Diamond
Benoit Cheyrou filled in admirably in the attacking midfield spot left unoccupied by Michael Bradley.
But with Jonathan Osorio returning from Gold Cup duty the Canadian midfielder is the best option to play at the top of Greg Vanney’s diamond while Bradley is away.
“That’s my prefered position,” said Osorio. “ Whenever the time comes, whether it’s Saturday or in the future, I want to play in in that position and hopefully make it my own.”
Vanney has options for Saturday’s match, but a midfield with Osorio leading the charge and Cheyrou insulating the back four is a pretty good place to start.
Marky Delgado has entrenched himself in the squad with a string of solid performances and Jackson is coming off of his best game of the season. Vanney will have options when it comes to his starting XI, but expect Osorio to be right behind Giovinco and Altidore in the attack.
It’s been a long wait, but Joe Bendik’s chance to take back the net has come.
Chris Konopka has been suspended one game for an incident against New York City FC. Though that decision by the league’s disciplinary committee left a number of Reds left scratching their heads, it will give Bendik a chance to start for the first time since TFC’s 2-0 win in Orlando.
“You do the same things as the starter when you’re the second goalkeeper,” said Bendik.
“It’s probably the reason Chris was able to step in and play well. We keep ourselves sharp in training and it’s autopilot when you come into a game.”
Bendik hasn’t made a start at home this season and his win-loss (2-4-0) record reflects the club’s tough seven-game road trip to start the year.
He’ll get a chance to get his 2015 home campaign off to a good start against the Union.