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Union-Toronto FC Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The Philadelphia Union are well out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and have had plenty of time to dwell on their season high-tying six-game winless streak, thanks to an extended break.
MLS-worst Toronto is also in the midst of a long slump and will go for its first victory in nine tries in a matchup of teams at the bottom of the conference Saturday at BMO Field.
A second consecutive postseason appearance seems highly unlikely for the Union (7-13-5), who have followed a 4-1-0 stretch by going 0-3-3. Philadelphia hasn't played since Sept. 1, when it was shut out for the second time in three games in a scoreless draw with New England.
Union coach John Hackworth preferred to dwell on the positives this week.
"I think they're in a great place," Hackworth told the team's official website about his players Wednesday. "It's been a good week and a half of training. When you have these breaks and you ramp up the intensity in your training sessions, you'll get a pretty good idea of where teams are and players' mentalities."
Toronto coach Paul Mariner, in contrast, doesn't feel good at all about his team's mindset. The club was eliminated from playoff contention for a sixth straight season with a 2-1 loss to Chicago on Wednesday, and is 0-6-2 since a season-best three-game win streak.
"When I came into this job (replacing Aron Winter on June 7), I said that I wanted to get some pride back into the shirt," Mariner told Toronto's official website after the latest defeat. "We didn't have a full-strength side by any stretch of the imagination, but this is your opportunity to go and show what you can do. And if that is the lads showing what they can do, then we are going to have a serious issue."
Irish defender Darren O'Dea, signed last month, hasn't liked what he's seen either in his limited tenure with the club.
"When you've one or two players off the pace you can carry them through at times but when you have five, six, seven eight players, you have no chance," he said.
Toronto could get a big boost Saturday from midfielder Terry Dunfield and leading goal scorer Ryan Johnson, who are expected to return from international duty. Johnson has six goals on the season.
For Philadelphia, Carlos Valdes and Gabriel Gomez should be back from recent call-ups as the Union try to avoid a team record-tying five-game road winless stretch. Gomez is tied for the club lead with five goals.
The Union, a 3-0 winner over Toronto on July 8, fell 1-0 on May 26 in their lone visit to BMO Field this season. Toronto snapped a league-worst 0-9-0 start with that victory while ending a three-game winless streak against Philadelphia.
"Nobody likes that, the feeling we had on that day," said Hackworth, an assistant under former coach Peter Nowak in that match. "If that's a little extra motivation, then we can use that to our advantage."
Philadelphia has totaled three goals since its last victory, but Toronto has yielded a league-high 50 scores.
Updated September 14, 2012