Maxi Urruti’s 27th-minute goal was enough to lead the Montréal Impact to a 1-0 win over Philadelphia Union in the first game of the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational Tournament in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday.
Entering their final phase of their preseason training before the season opener against Toronto FC March 2, the Union continued to work on their 4-4-2 diamond press.
In the 22nd minute, Marco Fabián dropped back to pick up the ball between the center backs and played a long through ball over the top landing for CJ Sapong, who set up a half-chance for Fafa Picault. Fabián, the Mexican international signed last week from Eintracht Frankfurt, dropped back into space many times throughout the first half to pick up the ball and try to ignite some kind of attacking threat. He put some concerns to rest as his work rate was exceptional for his debut as the Union’s “biggest-ever” DP signing. Ilsinho replaced him in the number 10 role at halftime.
For most of the first half the Impact found success attacking the youth and inexperience of Kai Wagner (21) and Brenden Aaronson (18) on Philadelphia’s left flank. Former Man City right back Bacary Sagna found success running at Wagner in the 27th minute, when he provided the service for Maxi Urruti’s winning goal. The Argentinian forward beat recently acquired goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel to the near post and tapped in the finish.
Mark McKenzie was subbed off early in the 31st minute after a few sloppy turnovers to be replaced by Jack Elliot.
The Union’s best first half chance in the 35th minute when Fafa Picault left a nice layoff to Brendon Aaronson, who didn’t strike the ball as well as he would’ve hoped, with the shot going straight into the waiting arms of Montreal goalkeeper Clèment Diop.
Right off the bat in the second half, a sloppy turnover from Jack Elliot resulted in a breakaway and Elliot was forced to bring Saphir Taïder down outside the box, earning him a yellow card. The resulting free kick from Harry Novillo was deflected just enough by the wall to sail right over the bar.
The Union then had a good spell of possession and pressure for about 10 minutes starting with a Kai Wagner shot from distance in the 55th minute flying just wide of Diop’s right post. Then again in the 58th minute Bedoya combined well with CJ Sapong who set up a good look for Brenden Aaronson, whose shot also whizzed wide past the post.
The Union made six substitutions in the 62nd minute, with Matt Real replacing Wagner at left back, Auston Trusty for Aurelien Collin, Derrick Jones replacing a less than impactful Haris Medunjanin, Anthony Fontana for Bedoya, and a swap of both Sapong and Picault for David Accam and Kacper Przybylko. Bethlehem Steel FC player Michee Ngalina came on for Brenden Aaronson in the 81st minute for a late cameo appearance.
The Union didn’t have any other real chances until stoppage time when a Derrick Jones through ball sprung Accam, only for him to be booked for diving when the Montreal goalkeeper came out to stop the play. Ray Gaddis also received a yellow card for bringing down Montreal’s Mathieu Choinière with a hard tackle in the 89th minute.
Overall, the game was rather sloppy, with both teams committing a number of fouls. Philadelphia’s backline committed far too many turnovers which could have been costly in the regular season, though Montreal were without their best player today in Nacho Piatti. The Union attack that has been firing on all cylinders for most of the preseason fizzled out today, which is not altogether strange considering the heavy squad rotation and integration of new players to the squad this past week. The team’s performance today showed the vulnerability of having youthful outside backs playing against seasoned players like Bacary Sagna in their new formation.
For Montreal, Sagna, Urruti, and Novillo all had great games. Even without Piatti, Montreal still found space in behind the Union on several occasions and were able to turn the Union over almost at will.
On the positive side for Union fans, Brenden Aaronson looked sharp, and Marco Fabián showed glimmers of quality in the first half. Derrick Jones also had a positive impact off the bench.
Carlos Coronel, Kai Wagner (Matt Real 62’), Aurelien Collin (Auston Trusty 62’), Mark McKenzie (Jack Elliot 31’), Ray Gaddis, Haris Medunjanin (Derrick Jones 62’), Brenden Aaronson (Michee Ngalina (81’), Alejandro Bedoya (Anthony Fontana 62’), Marco Fabián (Ilsinho 46’), Fafa Picault (David Accam 62’), CJ Sapong (Kacper Przybylko 62’)
Did Not Play: Corey Burke, Andre Blake, Matt Freese, Sergio Santos, Olivier Mbaizo, Fabinho, Warren Creavalle
Clément Diop, Dan Lovitz, Zakaria Diallo, Víctor Cabrera, Bacary Sagna (Zachary Brault-Guillard 86’), Samuel Piette, Saphir Taïder (Shamit Shome 77’), Micheal Azira (Ken Krolicki 69’), Mathieu Choinière (Clément Bayiha 93’), Harry Novillo (D. Choinière 82’), Maxi Urruti (Anthony Jackson-Hamel 73’)