Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Montreal Impact

Photo: Paul Rudderow

This post has been edited after publication.

Who: Philadelphia Union (5th place, 10 points, 3-3-1) vs. Montreal Impact (3rd place, 11 points, 3-2-2)
What: 2019 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
When: Saturday, April 20, at 1pm
Watch: PHL17, ESPN+

The Union have always had an interesting time with the Montreal Impact, especially at home. In the past two years, Montreal has won in Chester twice, scoring 10 goals on the road. Now, they’re unbeaten in their last three matches and the Union just had their own three-match winning streak snapped by Zlatan. The boys in blue will need to keep their good form and not be shaken by last week’s result if they want the first home victory over the Impact since August 9, 2014 — nearly five years ago.

Scouting report: Montreal Impact

In 2018, head coach Remi Garde gave his club some life after dropping Montreal’s back line and focusing on the counterattack more. That’s all still pretty true this season, what’s changed is the players. The big, very recent news is that the Impact have acquired Panamanian international attacker Omar Browne, formerly of Independiente. Browne is known for speed, making him perfect for Montreal’s counterattacking style. It’s still not known if Omar Browne will make his debut for the Impact this Saturday, but if he does, he can give the Union some trouble.

The other big change is Ignacio Piatti. Last season he basically was Montreal’s offense. This season, Piatti hasn’t played in every match and is currently injured, but he hasn’t always been missed. Even without him, the Impact have still been scoring goals and winning games, especially on the road. They shoot from distance more and score without creating on major chances, relying on one of their attackers to take capitalize on the counter-attack. Midfielder Saphir Taïder is currently leading the Impact in both goals and shots, with forwards Orji Okwonkwo and Maximiliano Urruti trailing behind him. It is still a bit early on in the season, but it seems like the three are on their way to a strong year, thriving under Garde’s counterattack style.

Of course, the attacking part is only one half of the plan, well the second half technically. Montreal is able to play a counterattacking style because they have a solid defense. If you’re asking yourself how good their defense has been this year, the Impact haven’t allowed a goal in April. They allowed seven goals against Sporting KC on March 30 and haven’t allowed one since, going unbeaten in their last three matches. All April, Garde has been bolstering his back line with his veterans, Jukka Raitala, Zakaria Diallo and Bacary Sagna. The trio are all over 30, but very disciplined, relying on simple clearances and passes.

  • Injury report: OUT – Ignacio Piatti (knee), Ken Krolicki (elbow), Jason Beaulieu (knee)
  • Suspended: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Last week was a rough one for the Union who looked out of sorts and generally outmatched against the Galaxy. If the Union want to beat the Impact at home for the first time in two years, they need to buckle down and put last week’s loss behind them. To do so, they’ll need to be able to shift from offense to defense easily, always prepared for the Impact to counterattack and make something out of nothing.

The big news is that Philly will be once again heading into a match without Marco Fabian and will have to adjust accordingly. Jim Curtin has been putting Brenden Aaronson to good use in the midfield after he got his debut during Fabian’s suspension, so expect to see the kid at the No. 10 spot again. While Aaronson didn’t have a great match last week, nobody did honestly, he has been looking good in the Union’s midfield with or without Fabian. He’ll be a key to getting past Montreal’s older back line, using his knack for a good long pass or cross to generate some offense.

Alejandro Bedoya has been thriving on the right recently, shifting play almost completely to his sideline in recent matches. Of course that was with Aaronson on the left and Fabian at the top of the diamond, but Curtin should keep him on his dominant side to create better chances and read the field easier. Which leaves a bit of a hole in the left midfield. Aaronson has been put into the role recently, but the Union don’t really have a natural left mid to fill out the diamond. It’d be nice to see Anthony Fontana or Warren Creavalle get the start on the left of the diamond, both have the speed and passing abilities to be a threat to Montreal’s defense.

Defensively, Philly will need to be ready for the counterattacks and be strong on the sides. The Union’s back line has looked pretty good recently, which is a bit out of character for the club. The young back line has had its ups and downs, but during the winning streak, they were looking cohesive and limiting mistakes.

Kai Wagner seems to be living up to his nickname, almost effortlessly defending the left side. He will have to be “The Machine” against Orji Okwonkwo who likes to take shots from the side. Likewise, Ray Gaddis will need to lock down the right side against Novillo and might struggle as he’s been known to do when blocking crosses or shots.

With Auston Trusty suspended, Mark McKenzie will likely pair with Jacob Elliott, and they need to be prepared for the three speedy forwards Montreal will use in their counterattacks and hold a strong line. Aside from last week, recent matches show that they can pull it off if they’ve got their heads in the game and don’t make unnecessary mistakes.

  • Injury report: OUT – Marco Fabian (ankle), Sergio Santos (quad)
  • Suspended: Auston Trusty
Key matchup

Philly’s offense vs. Montreal’s defense. Montreal like to keep defense simple. Their back line doesn’t try anything too physical or fancy, just stopping shots, getting the ball and getting it forward. That also means that they’ve yet to give up a goal in their last three matches. Speed will be key for Fafa Picault and Cory Burke, as will their strong ball handling skills. But, a no-nonsense style could spell trouble for the Union’s attackers who occasionally have trouble finding the back of the net. Depending on Curtin’s midfield lineup, a speedy attack with the right pass could easily dismantle the Impact’s older back line and break their shutout streak.

Player to watch

Brenden Aaronson. At this point, there’s no doubt he’ll be on the field, and he’s likely to be back at the No. 10 spot, where he really thrives. Aaronson will need to be a bit creative with this Montreal squad so it will be interesting to see what plays he can create and how well he reacts to the Impacts quick counterattacks. He’s tactile enough to read the field and the other team, and he’s got some speed, so he should create some great plays and some amazing passes if he’s on his game.


Montreal Impact 2-1 Philadelphia Union. The Impact just seem to have the Union’s number in Talen Energy Stadium. But to be fair, the Union win in Montreal as well, it’s just how this match-up goes. Montreal’s style is just too perfect for their current roster and they use it to their advantage. Maybe Philly just can’t get over their win streak being snapped and how almost every individual player seemed to have a bad night all at the same time, so they’re not 100% in this game.


  1. Good article but I’d much rather see Monteiro start on the left side. Crevalle offers nothing going forward. Fontana would be nice to see as a sub. Monteiro has been one of the best players on the field for them when he’s played – though admittedly that is not saying a lot in the Galaxy game.

  2. The midfield will be Aaronson in the middle, Bedoya right, Monteiro left, and Medunjanin in the back. Though with Montreal’s speed, you have to wonder if they might not be better off trying Medunjanin on the left and Monteiro in the back. But Curtin loves to drop Medunjanin between the CBs, and we will be playing with 2 CBs who have virtually never played together, so I don’t think he’ll want to rock the boat that much.

    The bigger question is who starts up top. Picault gives you defensive pressure but no finishing, Accam has been intermittently hot but streaky, and Burke gives you the target forward but has mostly not looked so great. I’m not sure which would be the best pairing for this match, but I guess I lean toward Burke and Accam.

    • Checking the Philadelphia roster on the MLS website that now is updated to April 18th (Thursday), Kacper Przybylko remains listed as an international player who is unavailable..
      The evidence is by no means conclusive, only suggestive, but it suggests the tall German finisher will play for Bethlehem rather than the Union. Given that both Ngalina and Faris played 90 and 90 back to back within the space of 72 hours, sending Kacper down makes a good deal of sense.

      • He’s Polish my dude. German in the sense that was where he Was born but he reps Poland.

  3. Zero people want Fontana to start over Monteiro tomorrow.

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