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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Toronto may be chance to shuffle midfield

When Union manager John Hackworth calls Toronto F.C. “sneaky good,” it’s a little difficult to peg just what he means.
Toronto midfielder Luis Silva may have a revamped
Philadelphia Union midfield to contend with Saturday.
(Associated Press)

On paper, the Toronto’s strengths lie at the front and back of the formation. Robert Earnshaw is a tremendous poacher who can make slumbering defenses pay early and often. Danny Califf and Darren O’Dea provide a balanced and seasoned central defense pairing, shoring up a massive weakness of last year’s hapless Toronto team.

But if there’s one area in which Toronto (1-2-2, 5 points) doesn’t jump off the page, it’s the midfield.

That works in the favor of the Union, which are still waiting from a stand-up-and-take-notice performance from its midfield. Even with a greatly improved Toronto team coming to town, this could be a chance for that performance.

Much has been made lately of the place of Brian Carroll in this team, a discussion only magnified by the overlapping specialties of new arrival Kleberson. With the Brazilian possibly set to make his debut this weekend, it could take some shuffling to get both into the midfield.

For one, Hackworth has said that he envisions Kleberson in a central location somewhere between Carroll and Michael Farfan. In a four-man midfield, such a linear formation inherently creates imbalance. The obvious choice would be to deviate from the midfield diamond that has seen Carroll and Farfan at its rear and forward points, respectively, for a central midfield pairing in which Carroll and Kleberson interchange going forward.

The consequences would be to effectively crowd out both Michael Lahoud and Keon Daniel (the latter being less effective in a wing role and the former rarely utilized there) and shunt Farfan to a wide role opposite either Danny Cruz or Gabriel Farfan. It would, however, leave plenty of room behind the striking pair – for instance this week, Conor Casey and Jack McInerney – for playmakers like Kleberson or Michael Farfan or one of the strikers to flash into and create opportunities.

There’s no guarantee that Kleberson gets the start Saturday. But consider this: According to ESPN, the Union have managed only 43 and 40 percent of the possession the last two weeks, respectively, both away matches. In its two away matches this season, Toronto has had at least 50 percent of the possession against Vancouver (50) and Montreal (51). A jolt to change that may be needed.

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