By: Gio Sardo (Twitter: @GioSardo) of LeFootyDaily.com
It’s funny how one dominant win can make a fan base forget almost two months of poor play. After securing just 3 wins in a span of 11 games, the Impact were still somehow near the top of the Eastern conference. Everyone and their mother had an excuse of the team’s recent troubles (defense playing badly, Di Vaio is always offside, etc...) and then BOOOOM!! One big win and it’s like nothing ever happened. Montreal is back in first, Di Vaio is scoring again, the defense is not allowing any goals... it’s time to plan that parade. Montreal has won the MLS Cup!!
Oops... wait a minute... let’s put the brakes on for a second.
If you forget the past, you are doomed to repeat it.
As much as I am an optimist and as much as I believe in this club’s chances, there is still a lot of Soccer left. There are only 7 points separating 1st place from 7th place. The Impact still have a lot to prove this season. The arrival of DP Hernan Bernardello has been a huge blessing. Jeb Brovsky isn’t human. The left back has played almost every minute this season. I believe he is bionic. Bernier is playing MVP style ball and Di Vaio... well... he’s just World Class. Period. (For those still looking at the Italian’s offside numbers, please, start watching ping pong or the spelling bee on ESPN. Soccer isn’t for you.)
All this brings us to Saturday night. 7:30pm Eastern time. Impact facing the Union in the City of Brotherly Love. This game will definitely have a playoff feel to it. It’s one of those cliché ‘6 point games’ for both teams.
Are the Impact overconfident? Was last week’s Impact the real deal or just a flash in the pan?
Are the Union going to continue their downward spiral after losing 5-1 to New England? Or will they play all out and earn redemption in front of their fans at PPL Park? Despite having played 2 more games than Montreal, a win would put them even at 41 points.
The Impact will play this game without their manager, Marco Schällibaum, on the sidelines. Top assistant Mauro Biello, coming off his first coaching win, will be pulling the strings for a second consecutive week.
Historically, the Impact do not do very well on the road, which is proven by the -9 goal differential. The key to shutting down Montreal is taking away the service to MLS goal scoring leader Marco Di Vaio. The Italian relies on his midfield to set up chances for him as he runs off the defender’s shoulder and into open space. If the Union can disrupt Bernier and former Philadelphia fan favorite Justin Mapp, expect Di Vaio to slowly fade away and become insignificant. Felipe has become more dangerous of late and does help open up space offensively but whether or not he can continue his improved recent play, especially on the road, remains to be seen.
Defensively, Montreal has improved GREATLY since the arrival of DP Hernan Bernardello. He and Bernier form a mighty defensive duo from the midfield and help insulate the aging Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari. Jeb Brovsky is perhaps the most consistent defender in the league. The weakness comes on the right side with Hassoun Camara. Although he is solid on the backline, Camara likes to push the ball up the wing but suffers from the occasional brain fart turnover, leaving his teammates vulnerable to the counter attack.
The only other player that should figure in the Starting XI would be Andres ’30 seconds’ Romero. He is known to play well for 30 seconds per game (although, against Houston, it was actually about 90 seconds) and then become virtually useless.
To be honest, I am not really sure what to expect from the Montreal Impact this Saturday. They have been hit and miss way too often lately. If the Union show up to play and put some muscle into their hustle, they should be able to at least get a draw. I’m expecting an entertaining yet sloppy 90 mins of Soccer.
My final prediction:
4 yellow cards
1 red card
And a partridge in a pear tree... (Oh God... did I really just quote a Christmas song in August?)