Oct 15, 2011, 1:37 PM EDT
The math could not be any simpler. Win and they’re in.
The Union, in just their second season in MLS, can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Toronto FC today (4PM/Comcast SportsNet).
There are multiple scenarios where the Union can clinch a postseason berth even with a loss, but you know they want to celebrate the accomplishment in front of the home fans.
After a lull where they went winless over eight games, Peter Nowak’s side has recovered to go unbeaten over the last seven. The most impressive feat over this run of good form is that they earned four out of a possible six points after traveling to the West Coast on consecutive weeks (a 1-1 tie at Chivas USA and a 2-0 win at Seattle).
The key figure over this stretch has been Sebastien Le Toux. The Frenchman has nine goals and two assists over the last 11 games. He set-up the Union’s second goal in Seattle last week, sprinting 50+ yards before slotting a pass over to Brian Carroll for the finish.
Le Toux’s versatility has been a godsend for this team. However, he’s not the only complete two-way player on the field. The Union have benefited from their own version of “Total Football“.
Le Toux, Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan, Gabriel Farfan, and Sheanon Williams are effective all over the field. They get forward, they track back, and they’re just as likely to get to the byline and serve a ball into the box as they are to win a ball in and around their own eighteen yard box.
Speaking of effective play, the Union have never been more effective offensively than the last time they faced Toronto. The U dropped a six-spot on them back in May at BMO Field en route to a 6-2 win. Due to some high profile arrivals and departures TFC is a vastly different team than the one that was destroyed by the Union in May.
Maicon Santos, who scored both of the Toronto goals that day, is now a member of FC Dallas. German international Torsten Frings, he of the infamous handball against the US in the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals, and forward Danny Koevermans joined Toronto at the end of June.
All Koevermans has done is step in and become Toronto’s leading scorer. The diminutive Joao Plata, he’s just 5’2″, leads TFC with five assits.
Toronto, who has been eliminated from playoff contention, last played two weeks ago whent they tied New York 1-1. They’ve been brutal on the road this season, going 1-9-6 away from home.
The Union will look to add to Toronto’s road woes this afternoon. The big question is who will be between the sticks for the Union. Nowak would not confirm, but there’s a good chance Faryd Mondragon, who may or not be fully recovered from a broken finger, will start. If he’s unable to go then you’ll see Zac MacMath make his eight consecutive start.
Today could be a historic day in Union franchise history. Clinching their first ever playoff berth in front of a raucous PPL Park crowd would be a nice way to thank the fans for their tremendous support.
Lineup I’d Like to See Today: Mondragon, Gabriel Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo, Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic.
Final Score Prediction: The champagne is going to pop today. Although, since the Union have so many underage players they may need sparkling cider. Regardless, the Union win it 3-1 today.
The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely to See Red: This is too big of a game for the Union to be undisciplined. I realize I am likely jinxing things by not picking a player, but they can’t pick up a red today, can they?
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