Union

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Revenge on the mind for home opener

Union vs. Toronto FC
4:30 p.m. on CSN

With the revenge factor and home-field advantage on their side, the Union (0-0-1) open their account at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday (4:30 p.m./CSN) against superstar Sebastian Giovinco and Eastern Conference favorites, Toronto FC (0-0-1). It's an early but important test for Jim Curtin's club.

Here are five things to know:

1. Lineup consistency
The Union are coming off an impressive 0-0 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps last Sunday, earning the club its first point of the season in a tough rough environment. 

"We had a good game against Vancouver," Union center back Oguchi Onyewu said. "It was a good point away from home. Now it's time to do business in front of our fans."

That strong road effort means the Union likely won't alter their lineup on Saturday. Following the solid outing, Curtin will start a very similar group against Toronto FC. 

"You won't see us change drastically from the guys who did well against Vancouver," he said. "How we want to set up and defend won't be different."

That means the Union could tap the impressive Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya in the midfield, along with Fabian Herbers, Chris Pontius and Jay Simpson mounting the attack. Curtin, who likes to play a more up-tempo, attack-oriented game at home, isn't one to mess with a successful formula.

"We tend to have more of the ball at home," Curtin said. "We just need to get that final ball in the box a bit more reliably."

2. Stopping Gio
On Saturday, the Union will be tasked with something they haven't been able to do since Sept. 6, 2014 -- beat Toronto FC.

"They have very good players, these are the games that you test yourself," said Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, whose club went 0-1-2 against Toronto FC last season, including a first-round playoff loss. "We're looking forward to this game. It'll take teamwork to shut them down but we're placing an emphasis on defending."

And while emphasizing defense is something Curtin implores his team to do on every occasion, it's a must against Toronto FC, which boasts one of the more potent attacks in MLS. 

"They are a very good attacking team," Curtin said, “and one we respect a great deal. We think we have a good plan in place."

Part of that plan, which Curtin didn't disclose in full, is to stop Giovinco, the league's most dangerous attacker. It sounds obvious but easier said than done. Giovinco has 39 goals and 31 assists over the last two seasons.

"Gio is the league's most dangerous player," said Curtin, who also mentioned Toronto FC players, Jozy Altidore, Drew Moor and Michael Bradley. "He's tricky because it can't just be center backs that focus on him because one-on-one he can beat anyone. You're just trying to limit touches. When he gets the ball, you want him as far away from your goal as possible."

3. Lacking intensity
Entering the season as Eastern Conference favorites, Toronto FC had a mild letdown in its season opener against Real Salt Lake last weekend, tying the game, 0-0. But what TFC coach Greg Vanney was most concerned with was a lack of fire from his squad.

"Our overall engagement and intensity needs to get higher," he told the media. "We had a good start to the game in Salt Lake but we faded out of it a little bit. It was too easy for Salt Lake to get beyond our first line. We have to be more engaged and have more intensity."

But while Vanney wants his club to be more engaged against the Union on Saturday, he doesn't want it to change the game plan. Though he respects the Union, Vanney said Saturday is about what his team can do. 

"We're still worrying about things we need to improve upon," he said. "It's going to be about us. They have a good team, they looked well-organized and very disciplined in their approach last week. They made it difficult for Vancouver to get chances. I suspect it'll be a tough game." 

4. Keep an eye on
Sebastian Giovinco: Knowing how dangerous Giovinco can be, the Union's defensive game plan revolves around keeping an eye on the 30-year-old. "The message all week was about being organized and knowing where he is at all moments," Curtin said. 

Oguchi Onyewu: Center back Ken Tribbett was torched by Toronto FC twice last season -- once in the regular season, which got him pulled from the game at halftime, and again in the postseason. On Saturday, it will be Onyewu's job to help slow down a vicious TFC attack that tortured the player Onyewu is currently ahead of on the depth chart. "He's answered everything we've asked him to do,” Curtin said.

5. This and that
• The Union are 6-6-5 all-time against Toronto FC and 4-2-2 at home against the Canadian side. 

• It’s been two years and six months since the Union defeated Toronto FC. Over that six-game winless span, the Union, who are 0-5-1 against TFC since Sept. 6, 2014, have been outscored 13-7.

• Both Ilsinho and Warren Creavalle missed last weekend’s match with injuries. Creavalle is expected to be ready on Saturday but Ilsinho, slowed by a hamstring injury, didn't begin on-field training until Thursday, which puts his selection in doubt.