Union-Toronto FC 5 Things: Shrug Off the Distractions

Coming off a rollercoaster week in which they lost the U.S. Open Cup final in penalty kicks on Wednesday and had their CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz let go on Thursday, the Union (9-15-7) must shrug off distraction and attempt to compete against Toronto FC (13-13-4) on Saturday (5 p.m./TCN) at BMO Field.

Here are the five things you need to know:

1. Sticking together
It's been a rough week for the Union. With all their energy and preparation placed toward Sporting Kansas City in the Open Cup championship game on Wednesday, the club, if its not careful, could easily be squashed by Toronto FC on Saturday.

"I want us to finish the season with our heads held high," Union midfielder Michael Lahoud said following the loss. "I hope this experience defines us in a good way moving forward."

What happens early could define the match for the fragile Union, like it did on July 18, when the Union last visited BMO Field. In a span of three minutes between the 29th and 32nd minute, Marko Delgado gave Toronto FC the lead and Sebastian Giovinco claimed the game-winning goal.

"Their season is on the line," said Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley. "Whoever steps on the field for them will be ready to give everything until the final whistle blows. They will find a few ways to rotate their team, get some fresh legs, get some energy. One thing about Philadelphia, they will be hard to play against."

2. Stopping Giovinco
The Union are 0-2-0 against Giovinco and Toronto FC this season, and it hasn't been that close. The diminutive Italian, who has 20 goals and 15 assists this year, scored a beauty of a free kick goal for the 1-0 win in May and tallied a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win over the Union in July.

"He's been extremely good, there's no two ways about it," Bradley said. "When you look at it statistically, the number of goals and assists, for me, he's the MVP. There's not even a discussion to be had. If we can continue to play well, he'll get the goals and assists."

If the Union midfield and backline don't properly mark the shifty attacker, Giovinco could run wild on them once again. He has a knack for that. Giovinco has more combined goals and assists in a single season than anyone in the history of MLS.

3. Toronto FC looking to clinch
While the Union are reeling, Saturday's match has playoff implications for Toronto FC. If the Reds win and Montreal Impact defeat Orlando City, Toronto FC will clinch a postseason position.

"We know what the scenarios are," said Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney. "But some of those we don't control, so our primary focus is on ourselves and the result we need to come up with these weekend. Our focus is on Philadelphia and getting a result."

And with the playoffs approaching, Toronto FC is getting hot at the right time. The club has rattled off back-to-back wins over the Chicago Fire and Colorado Rapids, but are just 2-3-0 in their last five.

"We're hitting our comfort zone," Vanney said. "We know exactly where we want to be as we head through this final stretch of games."

4. Injuries
Coming off a 120 minute effort against Sporting Kansas City, the Union will likely be without hobbled Maurice Edu, who fought through a hamstring injury to play in the Open Cup final. Midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin is out with a concussion and goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre is out with knee inflammation.

For Toronto FC, defender Mark Bloom (quad surgery), midfielder Daniel Lovitz (foot injury) and defender Clement Simonin (knee injury) are out. Defender Ashtone Morgan's participation is up in the air.

5. This and that
• Despite a disappointing season, the Union are on a decent run of late, going 2-2-1 in their last five MLS matches. They have outscored their competition 6-5 over that span.

• Since 2010, the Union have the second-fewest wins of any MLS team. Toronto FC has the fewest. If the Reds win and Orlando City loses on Saturday, Toronto will secure the first playoff berth in team history.

• The Union are 6-5-3 all time against Toronto FC, but the Reds took a 3-2-2 advantage at BMO Field with a win in July.

• Former Toronto FC midfielder Warren Creavalle and Vincent Nogueira are one yellow card away from suspension. For Toronto, Nick Hagglund and Giovinco are on a one-card warning.

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