Jim Curtin has urged his Philadelphia Union side to use last week’s heavy loss against Charlotte FC as “a wake-up call” as they look to clinch top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Union fell to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Charlotte last weekend, allowing Los Angeles FC to clinch the Supporters’ Shield crown the following day.
Philadelphia have long been assured of an MLS Cup Playoffs spot, but they may need to beat Toronto FC on home soil on Decision Day if they are to finish top of the East.
Second-place CF Montreal are two points further back and travel to in-form Inter Miami CF for their final outing of the regular season.
“We are a team, and we win together and we lose together,” Curtin said ahead of the visit of Toronto. “We had a hiccup, but I do think you can learn something in every loss.
“It’s good to get a wake-up call like that, and take one on the chin as you go into the elimination games. I think to get that wake-up call can be a positive thing
“We know we need to have a good response versus Toronto and finish the year strong at home, in a place where we’ve been unbeaten. I expect a good response.”
Toronto have very little to play for on the face of it as they are unable to finish any higher or lower than their current standing of 13th.
The Canadian side have lost four matches in a row, failing to score in the past two of those, but recent recruit Federico Bernardeschi is hoping next year will be different.
“I’m very sorry for how the season has ended,” he said on the back of last week’s 1-0 loss to Inter Miami. “We lost games we shouldn’t have lost.
“We knew it was difficult this year, but next year, we will [do everything to] win. Next season we will try to win, for sure.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Philadelphia Union – Matt Real
Kai Wagner has started all 33 of the Union’s league games this season, but he will play no part against Toronto after picking up two yellow cards against Charlotte. Homegrown player Real should slot in at left-back for his second start of the season, providing a rare chance for the 23-year-old to stake a claim for a regular spot in the side.
Toronto FC – Federico Bernardeschi
While Bernardeschi has not been able to lift Toronto up the division since arriving in July, the Italy international can be pleased enough with his overall output. He has scored eight times in 12 MLS appearances and assisted a couple more, though he is back-to-back matches without a goal involvement.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Toronto handed the Union one of their five losses this season, a 2-1 victory at BMO Field on April 16. The last two meetings at Subaru Park, however, ended in a pair of Philadelphia wins by an aggregate score of 8-0.
– Philadelphia return home after a 4-0 loss at Charlotte, where they are undefeated this season (W11 D5), outscoring opponents 45-9, including 34-4 in the past seven games. The 34 goals and plus-30 goal difference are both the most in any span of seven home games in MLS history.
– Toronto have lost their past four matches following a run of just one loss in eight games (W4 D3). Nearly half (15/34) of Toronto’s points this season came in that eight-match stretch from late July through the end of August.
– All four goals scored against the Union last Saturday came via Daniel Rios, the first four-goal performance ever allowed by the Union in MLS. In fact, it was the first multi-goal game by any player against Philadelphia in MLS play since Nemanja Nikolic scored twice for Chicago Fire in August 2019.
– Toronto have scored 19 goals since the arrival of the Italian trio of Bernardeschi, Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Criscito in early August. Of those 19 goals, 14 have been scored by one of the three, while Bernardeschi recorded an assist on one of the other five.