The Union couldn't help but be disappointed by their finish last year in MLS; an abundance of offensive talent was on their squad, most notably Designated Player Christian Maidana, as well as C.J. Sapong, who had a career year in 2015. However, key defensive pieces, like Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu both lost time due to injury. The biggest issue for the Union last year was in their defense and their goaltending; they were unable to find a combination of center defenders or fullbacks to consistently keep teams out of their defensive third, and when teams found themselves in the Union box, whichever goalkeeper was playing on the day was often unable to make key saves for his team.
This year, however, the Union have an impressive defensive record, allowing only eight goals in eight games played, heading into their matchup with the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night. The main reason for this transformation is the stellar play of three players in the Union defense: Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, and Andre Blake. Yaro and Rosenberry were drafted second and third overall respectively in this past year's SuperDraft, with Blake being the first overall selection in 2014. All three now currently find themselves as regulars in the Union starting eleven, with Yaro in the centre of defense, Rosenberry as right fullback, and Blake as the team's first choice goalie.
The injection of youth into the starting lineup has proven effective for the Union, who, regardless of their current position in third, have the highest points-per-game in the Eastern conference. Despite the departures of key offensive weapon Christian Maidana (as well as former Impact player, Andrew Wenger) to the Houston Dynamo, the Union have managed to maintain a strong offense. The arrivals of Tranquillo Barnetta and Ilsinho into the attacking midfield, joining Chris Pontius, who the Union acquired in a trade with DC United, spark the attack led by Sapong.
In order for Montreal to have success against the Union, it will be key to exploit the inexperience of their backline. Based on recent lineups, Ignacio Piatti will line up against Rosenberry, which could prove a difficult matchup for the rookie, despite his strong start to the season. Whether it be Drogba or another striker to start up top, it will be essential for him to give Yaro trouble with his movement. Andre Blake can be counted on to make several key stops, so the Impact will have to be clinical in front of goal if they want to return to their winning ways at Stade Saputo.
What do you think of the Impact's chances against the Union?
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