After what felt like forever in waiting for the season opener, the Philadelphia Union is back at it again, this time north of the border as they take on CF Montreal on Saturday at Saputo Stadium. Philly is coming off a tough 1-1 draw against Minnesota with Cory Burke providing the scoring in the home opener while Montreal is coming off a very tough 3-1 loss in steamy Orlando. These teams drew in both games last season, 1-1 in Chester and 2-2 in Montreal. Let us look at how Montreal is doing this year, who to watch out for, and the prediction of Saturday’s match.
Montreal’s Season so far
Montreal got off to an early start this year as they were one of the four MLS teams in the Concacaf Champions League due to their win in the Canadian championship last season. They got off to a very tough start in their CCL matchup against Liga MX side Santos Laguna, losing the first leg 1-0. However, they were able to recover from the poor first leg to come home and throttle Santos 3-0 to take the matchup 3-1 on aggregate and advance to the next round where they will face a tough matchup in another Liga MX side Cruz Azul. With the team thinking they had shaken off the early season rust, they headed down to Orlando to see if they could avoid the dreaded CCL curse that plagues teams early in the season.
They were unable to avoid it, losing 3-1 to Orlando. What hit the team the most in this game was the second-half red card of their star striker Romell Quioto for the double-fisted punch to the chest of the Orlando centerback Robin Jansson, meaning that they will be without the Honduran international for the matchup against the Union.
While Montreal might be without their starting striker, the player that will truly be the x-factor for Saturday’s matchup is their young dynamic attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic. This is Mihailovic’s second season in Montreal after starting his career as a homegrown with the Chicago Fire before getting traded at the end of the 2020 season. So far in three games in all competitions this season, he has one goal and one assist, both of which coming in the 3-0 victory in the second leg against Santos Laguna. While Mihailovic has had injury problems in the past, since the young American came to Montreal, he has become a man possessed.
While Montreal has had a tough time with striker production, they have not had a shortage of chance production from the young American. He loves to come back deep to receive the ball and spring the counter going forward. If the Union is going to get at least a point out of this game, they are absolutely going to need to stop Mihailovic from putting his stamp on the game and pulling the strings on the Montreal attack.
While Montreal is losing a striker in the case of Quioto being suspended, the opposite is the case for the Union. Their star DP striker signing, Mikael Uhre, arrived in Philadelphia Friday night and even made an appearance to the crowd during the home opener. As Jim Curtin said in an interview on Friday, Uhre will start training Monday, which means that he should have a full week’s worth of practice with the team. Even with that being the case, I do not think he starts the match against Montreal.
The pairing of Carranza and Burke looked on fire this past weekend, with Carranza dropping deep to connect with Gazdag, while Burke stretched the field and drew the Minnesota defense out of sorts. Gazdag looked like a man possessed, linking up passing plays with the midfield and strikers, truly pulling the strings, and showing why the end of last season might not have been an aberration.
All this being said, I think the team will want to shake off the tough home draw against Minnesota and come out firing on Saturday. Even with the depleted striker core available, I still think Montreal will put up a big fight in their absolute fortress of a home stadium. It’s going to be a long-drawn-out game as these games with Montreal tend to be, but I see the Union pulling out a 2-1 win on Saturday. Game time for Saturday is 4 pm.
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