Date: Wednesday, July 19th
Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m. Central, 4:30 p.m. Pacific, 11:30 p.m. UTC
Venue: Stade Saputo (Montreal, Que.)
Referees: REF: ALAN KELLY AR1: Brian Dunn AR2: Matthew Nelson 4TH: Mark Kadlecik
Television: United States - The Comcast Network; Canada - TVA Sports, TSN 690 Montreal
Streaming: MLS Live
All-time record: The Union have won three, lost five, and drawn six against the Montreal Impact. Their last match was a 3-3 draw in Chester back in April. The last time the clubs played in Montreal, the Impact laid a 5-1 beat-down on the Union on July 23rd of last year.
What Montreal will look like
Long gone is the fearsome Montreal Impact of last year. Didier Drogba is plying his trade in Phoenix, Lucas Ontivero now plays in Ascenso MX, and Romario Williams was snatched up by Atlanta United. While losing those three certainly hurt, injuries to Ambroise Oyongo, Ignacio Piatti, and Victor Cabrera is probably worse - especially in the case of Piatti, who still leads the Impact with eight goals even though he hasn’t played in the club’s last two games. Matteo Mancosu and Dominic Oduro will need to pick up most of the offensive slack for Nacho Piatti if Montreal is going to stand a chance of continuing their unbeaten streak against the Union, with the last Union victory coming in 2015.
If Montreal has a strength, it’s on defense. Laurent Ciman and Hassoun Camara anchor Montreal’s back line, and Evan Bush continues to turn in solid (if unspectacular) performances. They’ve given up 29 goals, which is tied with the Houston Dynamo and Orlando City for 13th best in MLS - however they’ve played two games less than Houston and three less than Orlando. Left back Chris Duvall should be a target for the Union to try and exploit. If the Union’s right winger can help draw Ciman out, it should create a mismatch with CJ Sapong up against 23 year old center back Kyle Fisher.
What Philadelphia will look like
The last time these teams met was a pivotal moment for the Union. They lead the match 3-0 before surrendering three goals to blow what would have ended their winless streak. And while the club did draw their next match against the LA Galaxy, something changed after that Montreal match. The Union were able to fight through that and rebound themselves into mediocrity - which during the darkest hours following the draw against the Impact seemed like a next year goal. The Union can go from mediocrity to respectability with a road win against the bleu-blanc-noir.
When Andre Blake went out to represent Jamaica in the Gold Cup, the worry was that John McCarthy would be a significant downgrade from Blake and the Union would be exposed defensively. Instead, McCarthy turned in a fantastic performance against Sporting Kansas City, gutting out a 1-1 draw and winning the MLS Save of the Week honors. While there is only one Andre Blake, we’re seeing McCarthy developing into a solid MLS goalkeeper.
Another player coming into his own lately is Giliano Wijnaldum, who seems to have won the starting left back job from Fabinho. Wijnaldum, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, and Ray Gaddis form a solid defense which has seen the Union concede just 21 goals - fifth best in MLS. The Union’s issue is their goal scoring, which is 12th best in the league. CJ Sapong however has seen a bit of a renaissance this season, scoring nine goals in eighteen games - same as Federico Higuain and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
What to expect
The Union will need to exploit Montreal’s weaknesses on defense and look to score early. They’ll also need to look to have a stellar game from Wijnaldum, who will be tasked with keeping the speedy Oduro in check. Onyewu won’t be able to help much on that, so look for Fafa Picault to need to help get back on defense.
The biggest question mark for me is what happens with the Union’s right wing. Chris Pontius is still with the United States National Team, and Fabian Herbers is out after having sports hernia surgery, so the Union will either need to give Marcus Epps the nod or rotate Ilsinho back on the right wing while starting Roland Alberg at the 10.