The only storyline that you need to know going into this weekend is that our #2 Carlos Valdes returned to Philadelphia. This fact alone makes the entire day a good one even before first kick. PPL Park will roar as our World Cup-playing defender walks onto the pitch wearing blue and gold.
Welcome home, Captain. We missed you.
Saturday marks the third and final meeting for the Union and the Impact this season. Both of the previous outings, the first at PPL in March and the second at Stade Saputo in Montreal in April, were rain-soaked sloppy affairs. The Union looked good for large stretches of those matches but left the first match with a 1-1 draw then fell 1-0, giving Montreal their first win of the season. This author admits to writing that giving Montreal that first win "could mark the loss of hope and point of no return for this Union season." Yet here I am, as hopeful as opening day, believing that good soccer and happiness lie ahead. So what has changed?
What To Expect from the Philadelphia Union
Our Philadelphia Union will take the field on Saturday as a much different team than started against Montreal in April. Oh, the difference four months can make (and we're not just talking about the weather). This mid-season team is hardly perfect but holding a 5-8-9 record with 12 matches to go leaves plenty of room for hope. And hope we will.
The Starting XI could see a bit of a shake up. Curtain stated that the newly acquired Algerian goalkeeper M'Bohli will have a starting role just as soon as he is fit. Is that this weekend? Valdes is also looking to be ready quickly and will hopefully take over at centerback. These two roster moves put a sturdy seal on the backline.
The usual suspects are coming off what was a rough but enjoyable draw against Kansas City last weekend. The Union didn't put up much possession but made up for it with 13 shots (7 on target) and 18 crosses. Against a weaker Montreal team, expect better possession numbers with all the excitement we've come to expect from a Nogueira/LeToux/Cruz combo. Maurice Edu is coming off an appearance in Wednesday night's All Star match so it's unclear if he will start on Saturday. Michael Lahoud returned from a brief trip with the Sierra Leone national team and should be available on Saturday.
What to Expect from the Montreal Impact
It's entirely possible that basement-dwelling Montreal has given up entirely on this season with their 3-13-5 record. The Impact haven't had a regular season MLS win since June 29th and we shouldn't bet on them to find their legs this weekend against a strong Union team. Leading the team with 6 goals this season is Jack McInerney while Justin Mapp's left foot holds the Impact's top spot in assists (8). It should be no problem containing these familiar threats with our shiny, new World Cup-experienced players holding down the back.
Projected Union Starting XI:
Sheanon Williams - Ethan White - Carlos Valdes - Ray Gaddis
Brian Carroll- Amobi Okugo
LeToux-Vincent Nogueira- Danny Cruz
Key to the game? Move the ball. Keep the fouls to a minimum. Cover DiVaio. Don't get hurt before the OPEN CUP SEMIFINAL ON TUESDAY
A gross amount of optimism is flowing right now. Union win this one 2-0.