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Match Preview: Union vs. Montreal

The Union return to PPL this weekend against a win-less Montreal. Can the U shake off last week's loss and deliver another to the Impact?

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

PPL Park- Philadelphia, PA
March, 29, 2014
4:00pm Eastern on 6ABC

The 1-1-1 Philadelphia Union, coming off their first loss at Columbus last week, look for a bit of redemption at home this weekend against a pointless Montreal Impact. This is the first of three matches between the Union and the Impact this season. Last season the Zolos went 0-2-1 against Montreal but the opening weeks of 2014 have shown big differences for both squads.

What To Expect from the Philadelphia Union

The Union struggling through injury isn't a new story this season and unfortunately, it's one that isn't yet closed. The blue and gold back line will, likely, be without Sheanon Williams and Austin Berry for another week. If previous lineups are an indication, Aaron Wheeler will take Berry's place in the back line. While Wheeler has held up okay at center back, the veteran Marco Di Vaio could prove to be a real challenge for an inexperienced Wheeler. Di Vaio has been a repeat problem for the Union, scoring four of his season total twenty goals in three matches against the Union last year. Shutting him down is key. Joining Wheeler on defense will be Ray Gaddis, in for a fourth week for Williams, Amobi Okugo and Fabinho.

Expect the midfield to include captain Brian Carroll and the recently-named USMNT member, Maurice Edu. The consistent lineup of Nogueira, Le Toux and Maidana could be stirred by Leo Fernandes, who chalked up a goal and an assist in his last two appearances. Fernandes got a start against New England in the absence of Brian Carroll then played 35minutes against the Crew. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him replace Le Toux or Maidana, who both had sub-par performances last week, but given Hackworth's lineup consistency this season, don't bet on the change.

Conor Casey has been on the recovery path and could see minutes if the "game situation" is right, according to Hackworth in his weekly presser. Jack McInerney is likely to start up top for the 4th week with Antonine Hoppenot being the substitution, given his previous success at getting past the Montreal defense, rather than Casey.

What to Expect from the Montreal Impact

Montreal kept suspiciously quiet through the off-season and spent the winter months without making many significant transfers or trades. Now, the Impact are 3 games into the season and sit in the MLS standings dungeon with a 0 in the points column. After starting the 2013 season with four consecutive wins, this lackluster beginning is likely weighing on the Impact. Is this is the week they make a recovery?

Much to their favor, striker Marco Di Vaio and midfielder Andreas Romero return after serving a three-game suspension. The shake up in the Impact starting XI could provide for a much-needed offensive boost. Unfortunately for the team up north, Di Vaio alone can't make up for a struggling defense that gave up six goals in three matches.

Despite last week's 2-0 loss to Seattle in their home opener, the Impact had 55% possession, 83% passing accuracy and 26 shots (6 on target, 11 off target, 9 blocked) to Seattle's 70% passing accuracy and 9 shots (5 on target, 4 off target). Montreal might have been the better team on paper but their inability to find the back of the net sent the Sounders home with 3 road points.

Favorably, Patrice Bernier and Hernan Bernardello make a good pair and have been providing good distribution through the Montreal midfield. This duo can only get better as the season progresses. Union fans will also be treated to the return of everyone's favorite left foot, Justin Mapp, who has been far better for the Impact than we remember him to be in a Union jersey.

Projected Union Starting XI:
Zac MacMath
Ray Gaddis - Amobi Okugo - Aaron Wheeler - Fabinho
Brian Carroll- Maurice Edu
Sebastien Le Toux - Vincent Nogueira- Cristian Maidana
Jack McInerney

Montreal is off to a bad start but they can't be counted out. The Union need to play smart and attack aggressively if they hope to shake off the week 3 loss. The home field Set pieces and preventable mistakes have been the ruin of the Zolos so far and nothing say's the team is past that just yet. Montreal and a fresh Di Vaio will sneak one past on one of those silly mistakes we've seen too often. The Union should be able to put some fire power in their offense and answer without issue. Calling this one 2-1 in favor of the U.