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Match Preview: Philadelphia Union vs Montreal Impact

If ever there was a moment to showcase fight left in a season, this is it for Philadelphia.

photo credit: TreyMadara
photo credit: TreyMadara
Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

Match: Philadelphia Union vs Montreal Impact

Time: 1pm EST, 12pm CST, 10am PST, 6pm UTC

Venue: Talen Energy Stadium

Television: TVAS, 6ABC

Streaming: MLS Live (Subscription Only)

Referees: REF: NIMA SAGHAFI AR1: Eric Weisbrod AR2: Jason White 4TH: Mark Geiger

All-time Record: 3-5-5, -7 GD

What Montreal will look like:

Montreal returned to their winning ways after a 2-1 win at home against the newly-christened “best team in MLS no matter what” Atlanta United. The game winner was a terrific flick goal that thankfully won Goal of the Week honors from a certain lob shot from about fifty yards out that we don't want to talk about anymore.

The Impact were struggling up until this match and were competing with the Union for worst MLS team in 2017. One thing changed: The return of Ignacio Piatti. Nacho is unbelievably talented. It’s a player like Piatti that can transform a game on a dime. He didn’t get much on the stat sheet besides a PK goal, but his presence alone can unhinge a defense and cause panic.

Piatti has a team behind them that play unmistakably tough defense under manager Mauro Biello. It’s really a simple formula: find a spectacular play-maker and put a solid team behind them that can defend. This gives you a shot to win any game. Montreal, with all their struggles to start the season, have something that will always keep them in the game: Ignacio Piatti.

What Philadelphia will look like:

This is one thing the Union do not have that they can rely on. The player the Union have relied on to carry them is being played out of position, forced to adjust to fit the system. Jim Curtin’s adjustments to the lineup against New York City FC did not work. The insistence on sticking to the plan, but changing the pieces is usually a good way to freshen things up. This move, however, only works when the system is working. The Union have done this over the course of the 2017 campaign: Start out with energy and then die off as the game progresses.

Tactical adjustments and general lack of success in execution have been the downfall of the Union. Teams are content with letting the Union control the ball, as Jim Curtin pointed out this week during the press conference. This is reasonable given the Union have absolutely zero ideas going forward. The system is the main culprit, but the personnel decisions have also contributed to this. It seems like a recurring dream and I can’t imagine that if it goes unchanged we will have a different outcome Saturday afternoon.

What to expect:

With Montreal’s star returning and the Union stubbornly clinging to its previous failures, this match will likely look very similar. The keys to this game for Philadelphia are to give Piatti no space. Montreal does not create without him. As for Philadelphia, they should be focusing mostly on keeping Piatti out of dangerous areas as best as possible. Continuous high press, as a team rather than a player at a time, will give them the capability to achieve this.

Offensively the Union have relied less and less on attacking the end line via the wings. More often than not, the Union have played it safe, banging the ball around in the middle third, before playing a long ball attempt. Stringing passes together is wonderful, but the lack of risk the Union players are willing to take is very much a sign of a team that does not have confidence in their style.

Projected lineup: Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin; Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg, Fabian Herbers; CJ Sapong

Result: Montreal Impact 2-0 Philadelphia Union