The Union met Montreal just four weeks ago on a cold, rainy afternoon at PPL. Marco Di Vaio's 80' goal led to a (disappointing) 1-1 tie for the Union. The teams made an unexpected player trade during the week following that match. This weekend, Jack McInerney will take the pitch against the Union for the first time while Andrew Wenger suits up in the blue and gold in his former home. The pair scored in their first matches in new uniforms two weeks ago but have not contributed much in the way of results since. Both teams have been remarkably lackluster through the first seven weeks of the season. The Union could show some of the shine we saw in the season opener against Portland (oh hopeful days, come back again), or, they could continue the path of draw-despair. Or worse, return back across the border having given the Impact their first win of the season. Should the latter occur, it could mark the loss of hope and point of no return for this Union season.
What To Expect from the Philadelphia Union
Lately, watching this team has felt like settling for that person you know is good enough, but hardly the love you deserve. It's difficult to get angry about a draw but it's just as difficult to be excited about it. So here we are, 8 games in with a 1-2-5 record, feeling unexpectedly lukewarm about the whole situation. This isn't a matter of the glass being half full or half empty; it's just half. And that needs to change. The Union has all the potential. The potential to play a strong game, find the back of the net and return home with points they've dropped so frequently of late. This is their game to win.
Last week they registered zero shots on goal. Despite Hackworth's presser statement that "the shots on goal statistic is a terrible stat for soccer" a team can't win matches while taking no shots. If nothing else improves, this must. Late goals wouldn't cause such a trauma if the Union could score more than once (or twice) each match.
Unlike the past meeting with Montreal, the Union enters this match with a mostly healthy roster. Danny Cruz and Fred were still mending injuries last weekend and did not appear in the eighteen. Hackworth said his weekly presser that Aaron Wheeler is the first choice at centerback so we can expect an unchanged backline with Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo and Raymon Gaddis joining Wheeler. Consistency will run through the midfield with Brian Carroll and Maurice Edu getting a start. Hackworth talked of switching the flanks with LeToux and Maidana, moving Maidana to the right, but this shouldn't be taken as a credible threat just yet. Bet on LeToux, Nogueira and Maidana appearing together with Casey alone up top.
What to Expect from the Montreal Impact
Frank Klopas' Montreal is winless. NO WINS. They might be the only team struggling more than the Union. Is this the weekend they snag their first three? Maybe. Since their visit to PPL, the Impact drew the Red Bulls and Chicago at home and, last weekend, suffered a 4-0 blowout at Kansans City. This could be the weekend the tides turn in their favor though. The Impact return to Stade Saputo on Saturday, where they are 3 for 3 against the Union, after hosting their first three "home" matches of the season at Olympic Stadium.
Last week's trip to Kansas City was a thrashing. The Impact put up 37.4% possession, 66% passing accuracy, 17 fouls and a mere 3 attempts on goal. Our dear Jack Mac was a 56th minute sub in Montreal's last match but racked up 0 shots on goal in his 34 minutes of play. The backline experiment, placing young and inexperienced Karl Ouimette, Maxim Tissot and Eric Miller with Matteo Ferrari is not likely to repeat itself. Expect this team to bounce back on Saturday with renewed energy in front of their home crowd. Jack Mac, should he make the starting XI, is sure to have something to prove. Justin Mapp's left foot can be credited with three assists thus far this season. Marco Di Viao has five goals against the Union and will certainly be looking for another. There will be plenty of work for the Union backline and defense on Saturday.
Projected Union Starting XI:
Sheanon Williams - Amobi Okugo - Aaron Wheeler - Ray Gaddis
Brian Carroll- Maurice Edu
LeToux-Vincent Nogueira- Cristian Maidana
Key to the game? Cover Di Vaio.
Don't make silly mistakes and cover Di Vaio.
Don't turn the ball over and cover Di Vaio.
I typically feel grossly optimistic leading up to a game but those feelings have escaped me all week. A win would be an excellent pick-me-up but I think we're in for more misery. Calling this one another 2-2 draw.