Union / Union match reports

Preseason match report: Philadelphia Union 0-1 Montreal Impact

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Rowdies

Sluggish in the St. Pete heat.

Philadelphia Union fell 1-0 to Montreal Impact at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday afternoon in what was an overall disappointment sprinkled with bright spots. Marco Fabian’s debut in blue was overshadowed by a lack of chances in the final third and countless giveaways.

Luckily for the Union, it took Montreal a while to get going, too. The first 15 minutes of the match was nothing more than kicking the ball around and getting settled in. Seasoned starters for both sides looked sloppy and the goalkeepers were napping. It wasn’t until 36-year-old Bacary Sagna awoke on the right-hand flank that a real chance was created. In the 27th minute, the French veteran beat Union youngster Kai Wagner at left back and sent in a cross for Impact striker Maximiliano Urruti. He took a touch and fired it past Carlos Miguel Coronel to score the eventual game-winner.

The left side proved to be a weakness all afternoon for Philly, with Sagna getting through multiple times and a few corners popping up on that end. Matt Real eventually replaced Wagner in the 62nd minute.

Despite only a couple shots on frame in the first 45, Fabian was very noticeable for the visitors. He often drifted back to bridge the back line and spent a lot of time in the center circle waiting for play to build. In the 21st minute, the Mexican international played a delightful ball over the top to CJ Sapong, but the ensuing shot from Brenden Aaraonson went right at the goalkeeper. It was the Union’s only real threat of the first half.

Ilsinho replaced Fabian to start the second, which quickly morphed into more Impact possession and unrewarded Union pressure. It was nearly 2-0 in the opening minute when Jack Elliott, who came on for Mark McKenzie at the half-hour mark, gave it away poorly in his own half. He back-tracked to earn a yellow on a tackle from behind and the ensuring Impact free kick was blocked.

In the one real tester for Montreal’s Clement Diop in the 58th minute, Aaronson again found himself alone at the top of box, but rifled it just wide of the target.

Jim Curtin opted for a wave of six subs (Aaron Trusty, David Accam, Anthony Fontana, Matt Real, Kacper Przybylko, Derrick Jones) in the 62nd minute, but the pattern of the match kept on. Jones made his presence known multiple times in the newly installed 4-4-2 diamond and Accam had a couple run-ins on goal late-on, but Montreal eventually took the ball to the corner and closed the lid.

Three points
  • Fabian will drift. Overall it was a very positive debut for the Union’s latest big signing. He’s going to do a lot of passing work behind the forwards, but it’s also clear he’ll drift back and distribute from the back line quite a bit. His work rate will be impactful, but it may also leave a hole up top at times. Someone (Aaronson, Bedoya, etc.) will need to be versatile and it will definitely put emphasis on the striker(s). Better have someone reliable…
  • Sapong? Sapong was more or less absent in this match, which is not a good sign for the Union’s attack. Is it Sergio Santos? Is it Burke? Can FaFa strive as a striker? Someone is going to need to step up, because Sapong just doesn’t seem to have it anymore. Curtin has a real decision to make when it comes to who will be fronting the new setup.
  • It’s preseason, but… Chalking up an uninspiring performance on a converted baseball field in the preseason is fine, but the home opener against Toronto is only a couple weeks  out. It is clear the new formation needs some work and it is also clear the Union will not win if more chances aren’t created in the attack. It’s not time to panic for Curtin, but Saturday was still somewhat discouraging. He doesn’t have a lot of time to solidify a starting 11 and get something going.

Philadelphia Union

Carlos Miguel Coronel; Kai Wagner (Matt Real 62′), Aurelien Collin (Auston Trusty, 62′), Mark McKenzie (Jack Elliott, 30′), Ray Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin (Derrick Jones, 62′), Alejandro Bedoya (Anthony Fontana 62′), Brenden Aaronson, Marco Fabian (Ilsinho 45′); Fafa Picault (Cory Burke 62′), CJ Sapong (David Accam 62′).

Montreal Impact

Clement Diop; Daniel Lovitz, Zakaria Diallo, Victor Cabrera, Bacary Sagna; Samuel Piette, Saphir Taider, Michael Azira, Mathieu Choinière, Harry Novillo; Maximiliano Urruti.

Scoring summary

MON: Maximiliano Urruti (Bacary Sagna) — 27′


  1. Preseason and all, but they looked completely out of sorts with the ball. More chaos than dangerous machine. In first half it seemed the rare forward pass was immediately pinged backwards 25 yards to CBs or Medunjanin. A little more dangerous after the mass substitutions so something to build on. Couple more practice games left.

  2. Went to the game in st pete.perfect weather. Sat in left corner and watched Wagner pretty closely. Other then the one miscue I thought he was ok. I was impressed that Marco came back to play defense and covered up for Colins giveaways twice. Isinio was useless in the second half and Sapong looks lost again. Fafa was out of position to make any runs. #21 was the only one who seemed to have an awareness of what he was supposed to do and made some nice short passes to start things. Unfortunately the forwards and ilshonio did nothing with the pass. The offense looks very disorganized at this point. Very disappointing.

    • I know it’s preseason, trying new combinations and everything… that being said, get Real on the left. We need to see what he can do. I was not impressed with Kai. I know the Union love Aaronson, the kid had two shots, but did nothing more. I believe he’s a 10, for his development, I hope they play him as much as they can in his natural position. Ale and Harris were nonexistent as well. In order for this new system to work, the right pieces need to be in the right place. #21, Fontana, is the only other box to box mid the have, but never tried him opposite Bedoya, would like to see that once Warren and Derrick are 6’s. Derrick was very good yesterday, should start over Harris. With their choice of strikers, getting the chemistry right now will pay off in two weeks.

      • please watch the goal again. wagner was on bakery who made a great cross. colin let urruti un marked and let him slip by to get the goal. watched colin closely. I sat in the left corner 3rd row. had great site lines to watch left and center defense 1st half. colin lost his players a few times and had at least 3 bad passes and 2 give aways that were covered by marco coming back to help. he had an awful game and looked slow. just sayin guyjs.

    • I understand trying different combinations in preseason, but they need to shore up the left side, which was the clear weakness yesterday. Real needs to start, and I understand the Unions obsession with Aaronson, but the kid is a 10, not a box to box midfielder. He had two nice shots on net, but did nothing else. #21 is Fontana, only true box to box midfielder they have as Jones and Watren are true 6’s. I would love to see Fontana opposite Ale once this preseason. I think Jones needs to play the 6 this year. The midfield was poor in general, Ale and Harris were nonexistent. With several strikers available, Jim will have to get the right combinations clicking in time for the regular season.

  3. Here’s hoping that we get more Santos with Burke coming in and less Sapong still trying to sort his feet out with the ball again this season! As for the game, I expect things will settle down. The Union need to stream their own preseason games so we aren’t subjected to the likes of the morons who called today’s match.

  4. It seems that they couldn’t connect two passes forward, only back. No continuity in the attack and disjointed from back to mid to front. It will be interesting to see who Curtain starts on Wednesday, but it should NOT be Sapong or Medunjanin. In my opinion they add no value at this point. Burke is much better at holdup and can control the ball. Jones still looks raw but he gets forward, broke up plays and had a couple good passes in final 3rd. Fabián is going to be an incredible asset once he gets into the groove. His talent and work rate, especially tracking back to get on the ball, was evident. It’s early but not really that early to show some identity. The identity so far is uninspiring.

  5. First off, that slide show of a stream was horrible. The Union didn’t look very good at all. Haris was slow and ineffective. I wonder how long we will have to suffer with him in the lineup before Curtin wakes up and play D.J.. Bedoya looked slow. C.J. should never see the field for the Union again. D.J. looked like the beast he was that first season. Wagner was not too bad. Some of his mistakes seemed due to his unfamiliarity with his team mates. I don’t know how much Colin has left in the tank, but his leadership qualities are quite apparent. You could hear him yelling the whole time he played. Ilsinho was also ineffective.
    All in all it was not a good day for the Union. I would expect to see another slow start to the season due to change in formation/tactics. There seems to be a lot of players ill suited to the change.

    • 2019 is a different season, 2018 is over. While the stream wasn’t great, it was clear that Sapong was probably one of the best players on the field yesterday in the Union lineup. He set up 2 of the Union’s 3 best chances. Worked his ass off on defense. Was an effective target player. None of the other Fs even touched the ball much.

      • Man I had no idea it was 2019. If only I had a calendar.
        Maybe you missed the bad passes and the feet of stone C.J. has. It’s nice he worked hard, since it’s part of his job. The other parts, like scoring and hold up play weren’t very evident. Getting caught on the ball and losing possession is not really what I would want in a starter. Maybe you look for something different.

      • Hold up play wasn’t evident and bad passes? Have another look at the Wagner and Aaronson chances. Sapong literally posted up in the box, received, kept the defender on his back, and laid off perfectly for the shots in tight quarters. Textbook, both times. Then, go look at the dime he laid on Fafa’s feet in the 1st half, not his fault that the shot was chunked.

      • In the first half alone Sapong had 7 plays where he either made a bad pass, failed to hold up the ball, or dribbled into multiple defensive players all resulting in loss of possession. He also had three negative passes which resulted in keeping possession but nothing came from it. He had 4 positive plays. The first pass he laid off to Fafa was actually miss played allowing the keeper to beat/meet Fafa and resulting in a missed opportunity, but I gave that one as a positive anyway. There was also one pass horizontally which led to nothing.
        Feel free to go back and watch yourself to see his lack of effectiveness. Might want to take off the rose colored glasses first.

    • Seems to me someone might have an interest in disparaging Sapong in here.

      For the Fafa setup early on, the Montreal GK was not even in the neighborhood. Fafa shanked the shot off a very good little cross. And while CJ’s feet are clearly not great, if you’re referencing the early ball that was rocketed and bounced at his shins from 5 yards away, not many MLS strikers are controlling that pass under multi-player pressure. Even forgot about the two headers (1 early knockdown top of the box, 1 to Fafa behind). He also deftly laid off a ball to Harris out of the air early 2nd half where Harris overhit the entry ball. CJ’s no prize, but he was easily the best forward on the field for the Union. And in a 2-striker, high-pressure system, he’s a valuable option, as he’s great in the air and can play the hold-up game all day long. He also works his ass off defensively. We could do much worse than Burke, Santos (hopefully), and CJ splitting time over 35-40 games (incl Open Cup and playoffs).

      • If I have an interest in disparaging Sapong, then you have an interest in promoting him. IMO this team needs more quality at striker than Sapong. I’m not the only one. You want to believe he’s good, fine go right ahead. I see his stone feet and know I have seen enough. Have at defending the new Danny Cruz all you want. I’ll keep hoping the coach sees reality in Burke’s quality over Sapong’s.

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