Match previews

Match preview: Montreal Impact vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

Who: Montreal Impact (8th place, 9 points, 3-7-0) vs. Philadelphia Union (9th place, 8 points, 2-5-2)
What: 2018 regular season game
Where: Saputo Stadium, Montreal, Québec
When: Sat., May 12, 3:00 pm ET
Watch: PHL17, ESPN+
Whistle: Kevin Stott; Brian Dunn, Jeremy Kieso; Silviu Petrescu; Younes Marrakchi

Let me tell you a little bit about my childhood.

I, like most kids, had my share of action figures. They weren’t encased in cardboard and plastic, pristine relics sitting on a shelf. They were cracked and scratched, bruised an battered by imaginary battles of which I was the puppet master.

Leonardo would emerge from the sewers with his twin katanas to claim the heavyweight belt from Hulk Hogan. A tuxedoed Bruce Wayne had to best Venom without the help of his utility belt.

It’s why superhero movies can capture an audience of millions. My inner eight-year-old cried out in glee as Captain America squared off with Iron Man in an abandoned airport and rejoiced when The Incredible Hulk battled the God of Thunder in an alien coliseum.

These moments give us the one thing we all crave to see: the immovable object versus the unstoppable force.

But what happens when that object can be blown over by a whisper? How about when that force can be halted by a feather?

That question will be answered on Saturday when Philadelphia Union play Montreal Impact. No team has scored fewer goals than the Union’s six. No team has allowed more than the Impact’s 24.

Both sides will be playing their third match in a week, with both coming off 1-0 defeats Wednesday night– Philadelphia to Columbus and Montreal to Chicago.

These are not two good soccer teams. The only question is which club’s feeble will gives way to the other’s.

Scouting report: Montreal Impact

It hasn’t been the ideal start for first year manager Rémi Garde. The silver lining is the Frenchman has already equalled the three wins he achieved in his last job with then English Premier League club Aston Villa. Unfortunately, he’s lost the other seven games in charge of the Impact.

Montreal’s struggles stem from a porous back line. No club has allowed more than 20 goals, save for the Impact. It’s surprising considering the emphasis the team placed on the back line during the offseason.

Four new center backs were brought in to compete with Montreal mainstay Victor Cabrera. While Zakario Diallo was lost for the year because of preseason injury, the high-profiled acquisitions of Rudy Camacho and Rod Fanni, he of Olympique Marseille fame, haven’t paid off. Garde has tried different combinations of defenders and three, four, and five man back lines, but nothing has stemmed the tide of goals.

Fortunately for the Impact, they have the most underrated player in MLS on their team. Ignacio Piatti isn’t just the best player on their team, he’s their everything. Piatti already has five goals and six assists on Montreal’s 14 team goals. It means the Argentine has contributed on an astonishing 79% of the Canadian club’s tallies.

Any hopes of stopping the Impact starts with stopping Piatti. Unfortunately, that’s something no one can really seem to do.

  • Injury report. OUT: Zakaria Diallo (D, ruptured Achilles tendon), Kyle Fisher (D, tibia), Marco Donadel (M, gluteal muscle injury), David Choiniere (M, ankle surgery)
    QUESTIONABLE: Rod Fanni (D, thigh)
  • Suspended. None.
  • International duty. None.
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

As far as a predictive measure, the Union’s opponent has been secondary to the location of the game.

If the match isn’t being played at Talen Energy Stadium, it’s safe to say the Union won’t take three points. In fact, Philadelphia have failed to win 28 of their last 29 road games dating back to Aug. 24, 2016.

Somehow, 2018 has been worse. Not only have they lost all four of such games this season, but they are the only team in MLS that has yet to score a goal on the road.

In Columbus, head coach Jim Curtin chose to deploy a nearly identical starting lineup to the one that was embarrassed in Toronto. The result was no different.

The eleven players on the field have looked lost both creatively and mentally. In the last 180 minutes of action, the Union looked as likely to score 100 goals as they were to score 1.

Maybe Curtin will say, “the third time is the charm.” Given his track record, it’s probably likely. But what the manager needs to do is make changes.

Midfielder Haris Medunjanin hasn’t been the same player as he was in 2017. No. 10 Borek Dockal doesn’t look the part of the highest paid player in franchise history. Winger David Accam has, well, been disappointing. No one is questioning that these are three immensely talented players, but they need a break both mentally and physically.

Play homegrown midfielder Derrick Jones. Let him crash into challenges with crunching tackles. See if Anthony Fontana can add another goal to his impressive debut. Maybe Jay Simpson needs more than 511 minutes to prove he’s not a bust.

It’s time Curtin to give chances to others. Let them show if they can play with a fire and a passion that’s been lacking. Some time on the bench isn’t going to break the spirit of the veterans. If it does, they’re not the players you’d want on the field in the first place.

  • Injury report. OUT: Richie Marquez (D, sports hernia surgery)
  • Suspended. None
  • International duty. Matt Real (U.S. U20s)
Player to watch

Anthony Jackson-Hamel

Montreal forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel is a homegrown that’s been around the block. Debuting in 2014, the 24-year-old hasn’t really cracked into a consistent job, mainly resigned to a substitution role. Even this year, Jackson-Hamel has only started three games. Yet since the start of 2017, only Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez and New York City FC’s David Villa has posted a better goals per 90 than Jackson-Hamel’s 0.76. He makes an impact when he’s on the field.

Prediction: Montreal Impact 2-1 Philadelphia Union

Nothing lasts forever. Eventually the Union will score away from home. There’s no better team to bet they’ll do it against than the Impact. As far as a victory? Until Philadelphia can prove they can win on the road, don’t be foolish and assume they win.

19 Comments

  1. “lt’s time Curtin to give chances to others. Let them show if they can play with a fire and a passion that’s been lacking.”

    lol

  2. Make changes… you’re funny

  3. Unless someone is injured I think the only change will be Fafa starting for either Ilson or Accam. The rest will likely be the same as Wednesday.

    • Not sure whether Fabinho and C.J. will go 90 after taking knocks on Wednesday… maybe start C.J. on the bench and let him recover a bit rather than let him get assaulted for another 90 minutes

      • Great One says:

        There’s literally no way CJ wont start, barring him being physically unable to run.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        He was physically unable to run at the end Wednesday.
        .
        If he in fact took a knee on the point of the hip, which was speculated by the commentators at the time, he may not be ready.
        .

  4. Montreal was a beautiful place to watch the Union lose the last two times I made it. It’s still beautiful, and they’re still likely to lose, though I won’t be there.

  5. There HAVE to be lineup changes. I mean, Curtin himself has actually strongly implied that there would be lineup changes during this road trip, but not the Columbus game. Which means it has to be this game.

    Anyway, at this point I would certainly hope that Earnie Stewart is interviewing for Curtin’s replacement. If he isn’t, then Sugarman better be interviewing for Stewart’s replacement.

  6. Play the kids. At least they care.

  7. Nick Fishman says:

    Curtin confirmed during today’s phone conference that at least four changes will be made.

    • CPfeif13 says:

      Best guesses?
      .
      .
      I’d say:
      1) Burke for CJ (injury)
      2) Gaddis for Fabinho (just returned from injury – Curtin said no injury just cramping when he came off)
      3) Fafa for Accam
      4) Epps for Ilsinho

    • Great One says:

      This is interesting news, thanks for the update. Now we have to use what we know about Curtin and the players on the team, as I’m sure none of them will be for tactics.
      .
      Ilsinho is older, he’s a good bet to be replaced by Picault. Fabinho will be replaced by Gaddis. These two are pretty much guaranteed.
      .
      The other two are interesting. I will say that Curtin seems to not care about leaving Accam in and doesn’t seem to have loyalty towards him. He seems to want to give Epps a shot. The other replacement (I’m using cautious optimism here) is Jones for Haris. He’s older and struggling and seems like a good time.
      .
      The reason I wouldn’t say Sapong off the bat is because 1. Curtin would like him until his legs literally fall off, and 2. he said “at least” 4 changes. This leaves the chance open that if in fact his leg is off, he can start someone else.

  8. The Truth says:

    I have my own soccer game at 2pm and have no intention of rushing home to catch what I can of this match. Gonna be a flat disaster.

    • CPfeif13 says:

      Idk. This team is due for one of those “maybe things are coming together” blowout wins that gives us fans false hope for another few days/weeks.

      • The Philadelphia Union do not win road games. I’m pretty sure it’s in the MLS rules somewhere.

  9. scottymac says:

    Blood in the water, 8-0 Montreal

  10. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Will Montreal start Piatti?
    .
    If yes, game worth watching as he is one of the league’s marquee players.
    .
    The argument against is having played Wednesday. The argument for is that with him on the pitch it is a winnable game for Montreal, and they need wins also.

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