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Union dominate reserve-heavy Montreal Impact 5-0

CJ Sapong had a brace and three others scored in convincing Suncoast Invitational win

Philadelphia Union vs Montreal Impact Photo Gallery Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

CJ Sapong had a brace, David Accam scored his first goal in Doop Hoops and the Philadelphia Union demolished a reserve-heavy Montreal Impact side on Wednesday night in Clearwater.

Playing against a Montreal Impact side that made nine changes from their starting lineup in a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay Rowdies Saturday, the Union looked bright from the opening whistle, controlling possession, pressuring the ball and launching repeated attacks down the left flank through Fabinho.

Though not underserved, the Union had little to do with creating the first goal; 20-year-old Impact defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguère simply gave the ball on an awkward play that ended with Sapong on the ground and the referee pointing to the spot.

Sapong cooly converted the penalty, getting 21-year-old Impact keeper James Pantemis going the wrong way.

The chances continued but it was some nifty footwork from substitute Matthew Real to beat his man to a ball near the sideline and feed the ball to Accam in the box. Accam’s finish to the far post four minutes from halftime was his first since joining the Union.

Head coach Jim Curtin’s substitute’s bench paid dividends again when Marcus Epps found Sapong with a lovely back heel that made it 3-0 in the 49th minute.

Auston Trusty made it 4-0 four minutes later when he was left all alone in front of goal and calmly headed home an Accam chip.

Epps delivered another assist when he used his pace to beat a couple Montreal defenders for a pass sent into the box by Fabian Herbers and then sent a pinpoint cross to Jay Simpson, who made it 5-0 in the 77th minute. It was far from being a clean or pretty finish - the shot deflected off the goalkeeper and in - but it’s still a good thing to see the second-year forward finding the back of the net.

“I’m happy for the players first and foremost, they’ve put in a ton of work this preseason and they’ve put in some good performances but haven’t gotten some of the bounces and the goals go in,” Curtin said after the match. “Obviously, to score five goals is good, to keep a clean sheet is a real positive, to have five homegrowns out there is a real bonus too. I thought some guys got some big minutes and made some big plays in the game.”

Curtin made just two changes from his starting XI in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to D.C. United, starting Keegan Rosenberry in place of Ray Gaddis at right back and Fafa Picault for Fabian Herbers on the right side of the midfield.

Anthony Fontana earned the start again at central attacking midfielder but as was the case on Saturday looked more comfortable further back on the pitch than he did pulling strings in the attack. The attack instead went mostly through an active Haris Medunjanin, who bounced back nicely from an uncharacteristically poor performance on Saturday.

Sapong, who has four goals in preseason, said tonight’s goals came as a result of the team moving the ball around well and being connected in their pressure.

“When things click like that it’s always good but it’s important not to get too high on ourselves though because there’s always going to be a different pace when the season comes around,” Sapong said.

On the defensive side of things, John McCarthy had only to make one difficult save to keep the clean sheet Trusty and Jack Elliott didn’t have a ton of pressure to deal with.

Still, the 19-year-old Trusty continued to impress and look the part of a starting center back.

“Goals are a bonus, his job is to keep the ball out of the back of the net so from that standpoint we kept a clean sheet,” Curtin said. “Happy with his passing. Are there still things he needs to work on that come with experience of playing in MLS games? Absolutely. So there’s going to be highs, there’s going to be some lows this year. We know that. He’s a young player that we believe in and has done a good job in preseason.”

The Union close out the Suncoast Invitational Tournament on Saturday against host Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium.