Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley is calling a midweek game against a middling Major League Soccer opponent the "biggest of the year" for his league-leading club.
Sure, a Wednesday home match against the struggling Philadelphia Union might not have the same sizzle as Toronto's big 3-1 road win over Eastern Conference rival Chicago over the weekend. But Bradley recognizes the importance of avoiding a letdown after a statement victory, especially when facing a team desperate for points.
"We're not looking past anything," Bradley told reporters Tuesday after training. "Tomorrow is the biggest game we've played all year, in terms of following up a big win with an even bigger one.
"You're getting to the time of year where teams who are hovering around the playoff line, or just below it, they're dangerous."
Philadelphia enters Wednesday's game at BMO Field six points behind sixth-place Montreal for the final playoff spot in the East with one more game played than the Impact. The Union nearly posted a win at San Jose last Saturday, but had to settle for a 2-2 draw after the Earthquakes scored on a penalty in stoppage time.
"We'll need to expect a big response," Bradley said. "Regardless of form, regardless of what has gone on, they find a way to compete at a high level."
Toronto hasn't lost since a 3-1 setback in Dallas on July 1.
The team's seven-game unbeaten run includes a 4-0 thrashing of second-place New York City FC and the recent road win over third-place Chicago. But the streak also includes disappointing draws against Colorado and Washington, two of the weakest teams in MLS.
Toronto head coach Greg Vanney said the players can't let up as they chase their first ever Supporters' Shield, given to the top MLS team in the regular season.
"It's important for us that this is a vital match for us in terms of maintaining our Supporters' Shield position, trying to stay unbeaten at home and a lot of the other factors that are kind of swirling around," Vanney told reporters after training.
"It's important that we come with the right intensity and attitude for this match."
Vanney said defender Steven Beitashour is progressing but still working on match fitness. Beitashour returned to action as a substitute against Chicago after recovering from a lacerated pancreas he suffered in June.
"He's good," Vanney said. "I don't know if he's full 90 (minutes), we'll have to see when we get him to that point, but he's definitely progressing. It's all about match fitness for him now."
Notes: Toronto has a 9-0-3 home record. ... The Reds are the only MLS team with a winning road record (5-3-5).