Match previews / Union

Match preview: Montreal Impact vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (8th in the East, 23 points, 6-5-7) vs. Impact de Montréal (9th place, 21 points, 5-6-6)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Stade Saputo, Montreal, QC
When: Wednesday, July 19 7:30 PM
Watch: TCN, TVA Sports, MLS Live

If you look at the standings, Montreal and Philadelphia are very similar, with the Impact just two points behind and a game in hand. But the stories about both teams so far this season could not be more different. While most coverage of the Union has focused on streaks – losing, winning, shutout, etc. – Montreal has been a narrative of unremarkable consistency. They’ve won a few, they’ve lost a few, but never enough of them in a row to say the team has a defined momentum towards or away from the playoffs’ redline. This makes it a significant game for the Union: If they’re going to convince anyone that their playoff ambitions should be taken seriously, they can’t afford to let points against middling opposition like the Impact slip away. Or considered another way, failing to better a stable-but-unthreatening team like Montreal could show the Union themselves to be middling.

Scouting report: Impact de Montréal

Expected Montreal Lineup

Unquestionably the best news for Union fans this week is that Ignacio Piatti, Montreal’s #1 goalscorer and #3 on the team for assists, will not be playing on Wednesday. He’s not the only player that will be missing either, since Anthony Jackson-Hamel is staying at the Gold Cup for Canada’s Thursday meeting with Andre Blake’s Jamaica. With Jackson-Hamel and Piatti unavailable, Montreal is going to have to rely on backup forward Matteo Mancosu and midfielder Blerim Džemaili to carry the goal scoring weight. Luckily for the Union, while they’re tied for third most goals on the Impact this season (behind Piatti and Jackson-Hamel), it’s only taken them three each to secure those spots. Shutting them down shouldn’t be too much to ask, especially considering how well the Union back line has handled other more potent offenses lately.

The other end of the field isn’t all bad news either. Montreal will likely field the same back four they’ve used the past two games in a 2-0 victory over DC United and a 3-1 loss to Houston. Neither of these results are particularly surprising, as shutting out DC isn’t exactly a challenge and Houston scores on (almost) everyone. But they indicate that Head Coach Mauro Biello’s tinkering, which has shown the Quebecois several different four- and three-man formations this season, hasn’t yet found a solution that is anything more than league average at best. This isn’t to say the Union offense will be up against limp competition, rather that they’ve faced (and scored on) more prepared competition many times this season.

  • Injury report: Ambroise Oyongo (D, right knee), Ignacio Piatti (M, groin), Victor Cabrera (D, undisclosed), Daniel Lovitz (D, knee), Louis Beland- Goyette (M, undisclosed)
  • Suspended: None; Lovitz, Tabla, and Bernardello are suspended after their next yellow card
  • International duty: Patrice Bernier (M, CAN), Maxime Crepeau (G, CAN), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (F, CAN)
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Expected Philadelphia Lineup

Just like the host team, the story about the Union tomorrow is all about who won’t be there. Alejandro Bedoya left the USMNT after scoring two assists in their Gold Cup game against Nicaragua to prepare for the birth of his second child, leaving Christ Pontius as the sole Union man at the tournament playing for the US. Paired with Fabian Herbers and Warren Creavalle’s questionable status, this leaves Jim Curtin  little choice for who to start on Wednesday. While it’s not impossible that Marcus Epps or Adam Najem could get a chance, it seems more likely that Roland Alberg will be starting and expected to play major minutes for the first time this season. That’s a situation that could have significant implications not only for tomorrow’s game, but the rest of the Union’s season and Alberg’s career.

At the back, John McCarthy will be starting while Andre Blake is at the Gold Cup with Jamaica, and that should be fine. Whether you think John McCarthy still has potential or if you think he’s unreliable, he’s certainly good enough to be a backup goalkeeper, even on a team that needs one as regularly as the Union. Jack Elliott is listed as questionable, but even if it winds up being Josh Yaro paired with Oguchi Onyewu, there’s no reason for concern. Raymon Gaddis will likely continue his tenure at right back and Giliano Wijnaldum seems to have supplanted Fabinho as the left back of choice. So all told Union fans have every reason to feel confident in their team’s ability to control Montreal’s hobbled attack.

  • Injury report: Maurice Edu (M, left ankle/tibia); Questionable: Fabian Herbers (M, right adductor), Warren Creavalle (M, right hamstring), Jack Elliott (D, left tibia contusion), Brian Carroll (M, lumbar disc herniation), Richie Marquez (knee tendinitis)
  • Family Leave: Alejandro Bedoya (expecting)
  • Suspended: None; Bedoya suspended after his next yellow card
  • International duty: Chris Pontius (M, USA), Andre Blake (G, USA JAM)
Key matchup: Laurent Ciman vs. C.J. Sapong

Both of these players have a physical style of play and odds are they’re going to be seeing a lot of each other on Wednesday. Both players will knock down and get knocked down a couple times over the course of the match, and good things could happen if Haris Medunjanin is able to help the Union capitalize off of the inevitable resulting set pieces.

Player to watch: Roland Alberg

The Dutchman impressed with limited minutes last year, but hasn’t come close to achieving the same success this year. But with Pontius away with the USMNT and Bedoya, Herbers, and Creavalle absent, the midfield has never been thinner. This means he’ll unquestionably see some serious playing time. Playing well against Montreal could be a major first step to rebuilding his bruised reputation, but playing poorly could be the final nail in the coffin for his time in Philadelphia.

Prediction: Montreal 0 – 2 Philadelphia

Missing players are leaving the Montreal attack essentially toothless so getting a shutout should be expected even with backup keeper John McCarthy. However, a very thin midfield finding the back of Montreal’s net could prove to be a challenge. The game could open up very fast if the Union midfield gels and manages to feed the goalscorers, or we could be waiting for an opportune set piece if they don’t.

10 Comments

  1. Given the quick turnaround to Saturday, I’d expect Epps to get around a 25 minute run and Najem 15-20. CJ of course will play every minute of the upcoming four games over twelve days, regardless of the scores. It’s a shame that we already know that.

  2. This just in. Jones out with a concussion and Herbers out 4-8 weeks. Had hernia surgery this morning.

    • I will be pretty angry if he got that concussion during the friendly and then was allowed to keep playing. He was down for a bit in the second half if I remember

      • Says it was during the friendly.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        While the concern and frustration expressed is understandable, concussion symptoms can be delayed.
        .
        That’s why the medical people want 10 minutes at a minimum to evaluate.
        .
        The game as currently designed does not make that possible.
        .
        Those who run the game, USSF, CONCACAF, FIFA, the Canadian Federation — judging by their behaviors — seem to feel no need to protect the players without whom their game does not exist.
        .
        To use the concepts of introductory economics, the players are the primary producers, as were the peasants of Mesopotamia in the Tigris-Euphrates valley when civilization based on agricultural surplus — wheat-farming — first emerged five thousand years ago, or earlier.
        .
        It is time to protect the players.
        .
        Diagnosing concussion is still part of medicine’s Art rather than it’s Science.

    • So Brian Carroll starts then? Could they call Chambers up from Bethlehem for a game?

      • Curtin said between Bedoya, Creavalle and Carroll they will manage the minutes.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Remember that MLS and USL do not have the quivalent of baseball’s 40 man roster and the option system.
        .
        James Chambers is not on the Union’s roster, a fact that supersedes all other considerations until it were to be changed.
        .
        Ken Tribbett is on the Union’s roster, if they need to borrow from those who have been playing for the Steel, and he has played well at defensive center midfielder next to Chambers.

  3. NJUnionFan says:

    Under INTL Duty, Andre Blake plays for Jamaica, not USA.

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