As a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan- I'm superstitious in the most irrational ways. If you don't know what that means, do yourself a favor and spend an evening watching Silver Linings Playbook. I am aware superstitions are a fools game but I've spent 20+ years letting victories and failures determine the laundry schedule of my jerseys, the guest list to parties (can't invite the mush!) and viewing locations for important games. I'll never break free. This weekend's match against Montreal falls right in the middle of Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer. My spidey senses dislike this since we spent Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, playing Montreal. If you've blacked out that particular match, or shoved it to the dark recesses of your mind next to our most recent disaster, I fully understand. Unfortunately, as we head into this second of three matches, it's time for a refresher.
Just a few short months ago, as the weather was turning warm and our hopes for the season stretched out like a beach towel...we had the WORST.MATCH.EVER. (well, until we played New England last weekend) What do you need to remember about that terrible evening in May?
"Union defense: YOU HAD ONE JOB. ONE. JOB.
COVER MARCO DI VAIO.
That. Was. It. Cover that bald Italian and you win. Instead, you ball watched and let him get open THREE TIMES in the FIRST HALF."
That quote came from my match review back in May and it is still the most important aspect of the game heading into this weekend. Amobi is unavailable for the next two matches due to a red card in the New England game and yellow card accumulation. With Gaddis also questionable due to injury, our back line could be a scary and unpredictable combination. Hackworth said in this week's press conference that one option is to move Sheanon Williams to centerback, with Lahoud, Kassel or Albright taking his usual spot on the right. The second potential scenario is putting Aaron Wheeler at centerback because, according to the press conference, he has been good in training. Since our usual lineup struggled to control Di Vaio during this year's first meeting, this situation could be disastrous.
And what can we expect up top? Close your eyes, click your heels and wish for the Jack McInerney from the beginning of this season to return. Jack is in a drought, friends. Our leading goalscorer hasn't hit the back of the net since June 1st. He was left off the Starting XI last week and spent all but 14 minutes watching from the sidelines. This weekend will show us if that was just medicine he needed or if there are bigger problems at hand. In Jack's absence (physically and metaphorically), Casey stepped up in a big way. He's played a full 90 minutes in six of the last eight matches with 3 goals, 3 assists, and 26 shots (11 on goal) in that time. If Jack can shake off the cobwebs, these two could be magic as we head into our final eight matches of the season.
Montreal comes into this "6 point" match at the top of the eastern conference with 41 points and 2 matches in hand to the Union's 4th place- 38 points in 26 matches. Justin Left Foot Mapp has been consistent and impressive (yes, I said it). His midfield efforts, combined with Di Vaio's finishing power will be a challenge for the Union. Di Vaio has 43 shots on goal this season from 85 total shots for a 506% SOG%. Get your big orange self ready, Zac, old man Marco is coming for you. Montreal is fresh off a huge 5-0 victory over Houston last weekend, and despite being without their manager, Marco Schällibaum, confidence will run high. Maybe too high? We can only hope.
So what will come of this Saturday evening by the river? Even my most optimistic thoughts can't see this as a win. If the Union can contain the Montreal midfield and not leave Di Vaio open three times in the first half, we have a shot at ending the summer far better than we started it. I'm calling this one a scrappy and well fought draw.