The Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact meet in Chester on Saturday. Both team currently sit above the dreaded red line; Philadelphia in fifth place, and Montreal in sixth place. Both teams have had almost two weeks off to prepare for this match. Our Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview how the Philadelphia Union are rested and ready to make an Impact against Montreal.
The chaos begins Saturday! Five matches to be played in only fourteen days will make for the busiest stretch in club history. Not only will the fitness and guts of the players be pushed to the limit, the coaching ability of Jim Curtin will also be truly tested. The matches book-ending this span are also the two wins the Union must secure to have a realistic shot at fourth place. These are at home Saturday vs the Montreal Impact, and September 29th at the Columbus Crew. The “easiest” match is the one this Saturday and the boys in blue must come to play!
Montreal started off the 2018 season terribly, sporting a record of 3-10. But a huge turnaround was in store. Since that dreadful start, the Impact are 8-4-3 and have been one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. Their main man on offense continues to be Argentinian international forward, Ignacio Piatti, who at 33, shows no signs of slowing down. He is currently in the middle of his best all-around season, with thirteen goals and a career-high nine assists.
Backing him up in the midfield are first year Uruguayan international midfielder, Alejandro Silva, leading the Impact with ten assists, and first year French international midfielder, Saphir Taider adding five goals and six assists. There’s no doubt this club can put the ball in the back of the net, but they are very susceptible to giving up goals in bunches, and have surrendered the fourth most in the East (45).
Saturday’s match is a case in which the schedule clearly dictates the starting lineup. With a mid-week trip to Seattle looming, Coach Curtin will simply roll out the guys who’ve started the last several matches. He announced Wednesday that midfielder and MLS assist leader (tied with Romero Gammara and Sebastian Giovinvco with 14), Borek Dockal, was back at practice and looked good. The final decision on him starting will be made after training Friday to see how his ankle is feeling. If Dockal can’t go, expect either Warren Creavalle or Derrick Jones to move into the midfield. Any other day, Ilsinho would be the logical choice, but he is out another few weeks with an adductor injury. His presence will certainly be missed off the bench, especially if the Union are tied or trailing in the 2nd half.
Look for Marcus Epps or David Accam to be called on while Ilsinho is out. I’d have to guess at least three regular starters will be rested against the Sounders on Wednesday, so watch for the Union to empty the tank this weekend.
Prediction: Union: 3 Impact: 2
Union man of the match: C.J. Sapong
The Union are in the midst of a very good run of form. In their past four games, they have taken 10 points out of a possible 12. This upcoming game the end of a five-game stretch against Eastern Conference opponents. On this stretch the Union have beaten NYCFC and New England at home, and DC on the road; the only dropped points were at Orlando late on where the Union’s tired legs got the better of them. There’s a huge opportunity Saturday for Philly to take 13 points from 15 possible, and the chance to distance themselves from the team right below them.
Like Jeff mentioned above, Montreal have had a summer surge. They are a formidable playoff six seed who are fighting to keep that spot over DC United. Right now, Montreal sit four points behind the Union for fifth place, and only two points in front of DC United. Montreal are in a place where they need a win to feel more comfortable with their playoff standing. Ignacio Piatti and the rest of Montreal will be up for this match, as it could be crushing should the result be a loss. The Union are in a similar situation.
Philadelphia can’t drop out of fifth place with a loss to Montreal, but the gap could be closed by Montreal and DC United should both win. Should the Union lose, and Montreal and DC win Saturday. Montreal will be a point behind them, and DC would be three points behind. Not only would the teams behind Philadelphia close the gap with a Union loss, they could be left behind in the race for fourth if Columbus wins. Anything less than three points from this match would be crushing for the Union. A closing gap, and a lesser chance at a home playoff knockout round game, could mean that this Union team fall apart.
In this match, both sides will be fighting to feel more secure in where they are. For the Union, the two week break was needed for the players to heal. Borek Dockal, Ilsinho, and Anthony Fontana have all been dealing with injuries. Now, Dockal and Fontana have trained fully and are both up for selection this weekend. While this match is important, it is also a start five game in 15 day stretch, so I don’t think we’ll see the guys coming off injuries. So that means that the Union will have to do something drastic.
I expect the Union to lineup like this:
Blake; Gaddis, Trusty, Elliot, Rosenberry; Medunjanin: Picault, Jones, Bedoya, Sapong; Burke.
Yes, I see the Union to play a 4-1-4-1 formation. I think with the lack of depth at number 10 right now, we see Bedoya and Jones in a double pivot. With this structure, the Union can control the ball in the middle of the field. However, when going forward I expect to see balls played down the wing to Fafa, or balls played to the head of Sapong. Basically creating the attack through their wingers. Against Montreal this could work, especially with Burke making smart runs up top and Jones and Bedoya making late runs into the attack.
This Union team will come out firing to show that their latest run of form was not a fluke. I see them out possessing and winning in front of their home crowd. Blake keeps a clean sheet, and Burke and Sapong get goals for the Union!
Prediction: Union: 2 Impact: 0
Union man of the match: Cory Burke
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Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports