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Union-Toronto FC Preview
Things are going much better for the Philadelphia Union since opening the season with a loss to Toronto FC.
They can be better for Toronto, as well, if one of its stars is back on the pitch this weekend.
The visiting Union look to push their unbeaten run to five matches and post a third straight victory Saturday when they again face TFC, which could have star Jozy Altidore available for service.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the young 2019 season is Philadelphia (6-3-2), which after losing its first two games has suffered just one defeat. That setback came 2-0 at the Galaxy on April 13, but since then the Union have outscored their opponents 12-2 during a 3-0-1 stretch.
That run currently has Philadelphia tied atop the Eastern Conference with D.C. United and Montreal on 20 points each, but ahead of those two sides thanks to a plus-10 goal differential.
Sergio Santos recorded a brace and Kacper Przybylko scored in his third straight game as Philadelphia rolled by New England 6-1 last weekend in is most recent contest.
"We have a good thing going right now, but in this league, you have to recognize you can lose it very fast," coach Jim Curtin told the Union's official website. "We have to keep the momentum going, not get complacent, and look to push things forward."
While attempting to do so this weekend, the Union also have a chance to avenge a setback from their past. Philadelphia fell 3-1 at home to Toronto (5-3-1) in the March 2 opener. Michael Bradley scored the first two goals of the game for the visitors, then Marco Fabian pulled one back for the Union via a penalty kick in the 73rd minute. However, Nick DeLeon extended Toronto's advantage with a goal in second-half stoppage time.
It was a fourth consecutive win over Philadelphia for Toronto, which is amid a 9-0-2 stretch in the all-time series. However, TFC is 2-3-1 since opening the season with three consecutive victories.
It also will aim to bounce back from a 2-0 loss at reigning MLS champion Atlanta on Wednesday night. It was the first time this season that Toronto failed to score in a league contest.
"I'm not disappointed in the effort because I don't think it's a matter of effort," coach Greg Vanney told Toronto's official website. "I think our execution wasn't great."
The potential return of Altidore would certainly give Toronto a lift. The veteran striker has a team-leading five goals in MLS play, but he's been out of action since April 19 with a hamstring injury. Vanney said earlier this week that Altidore was on track with his recovery, and could possibly feature Saturday.
Altidore has five goals in eight career MLS contests against the Union.
David Accam leads Philadelphia with four goals, but he was dealt to Columbus earlier this week for allocation money and an international roster spot. It is a move that is likely to benefit both sides.
"This is a decision that we believe is best for the future of the Philadelphia Union, in terms of our roster planning in both the short- and mid-term, as well as for David," the club's sporting director Ernst Turner said.
"We have our eye on the summer transfer window and beyond, and we are confident in our current roster to make this transaction now."
Updated May 9, 2019