As a lifetime follower of the Northern Ireland national football team, I know how I dread the raising of expectancy levels, generally in the Green and White Army’s case, on the back of a couple of decent, maybe unexpected results.
Given false hope, games they’re then expected to win so often end up in misery, and without victory, although to be fair it’s not been too bad over the past 3 or 4 years.
There are certain similarities with this Saturday’s scenario waiting to be played out at Stade Saputo.
Montreal has a better record against Philadelphia Union than it does against any other MLS club, the Union has failed to score a goal on the road this season (4 matches), and Montreal, despite the defeat midweek, has begun to find a little more solidity and consistency in recent weeks.
Probably for the first time this season then, the Impact will head into a game as favourites. I wonder how well they will wear that tag?
Union have 8 points this season, all gleaned from matches played at their Talen Energy Stadium, they are 0-4-0 for a goal difference of 0-9, away from home, and in fact have scored in only 3 of their nine MLS matches thus far.
Jim Curtain Is expected to ring the changes after a poor midweek performance at Columbus, where I understand the narrow score-line (0-1) was unreflective. The long-serving coach has his work cut-out to transform a side that has not qualified for MLS Play-offs since 2011 and is being watched by diminishing crowds at home in Chester.
David Accam was a major acquisition from Chicago in the close-season, however the Guinean is struggling to find his best form, and indeed has yet to score despite being ever-present in the side this season.
CJ Sapong, having just complete 100 appearances for the Union, has fared little better. CJ, on 2 goals is the Union’s top-scorer this season. He may not make the game, Saturday. It seems he carried an injury into the game, Wednesday evening, potentially displaying how much Phillie needs one of their most talismanic figures at this time.
Bosnian midfielder, Haris Medunjanin, has not managed to re-produce his form of 2017, and the influence of Czech #10, Borek Dockal, the highest paid player in franchise history is not being felt.
Post-game interviews following the defeat at Columbus had players and management all commenting about togetherness, how the players must do more for themselves, the club and one another, clearly indicating that certain problems have been recognized. Fixing them however is proving more problematic, and morale appears to be suffering.
Montreal will be looking forward to this opportunity to put Wednesday’s disappointment behind them and will be in confident mood.
“That’s the beauty of football,” said Samuel Piette. “We have opportunities to bounce back quickly. We have a game this weekend. It’s a good chance for us to turn this around and offer a good performance. If we play like we played today and last week, we’ll be successful.”
For Montreal there seems to be a clean bill of health after the midweek outing, so Remi Garde is likely to stick with the same line-up that ultimately failed to deliver in Bridgeview, Illinois. This means another opportunity for Edwards and Jackson-Hamel to convince the coach they’re deserving of spots upfront.
A prediction? Despite the Union’s poor record away from home, all things must come to an end. I can’t see them winning on Saturday (they’ve only won 1 of their last 29 MLS road games), but I do think they can get their first away goal of the season. Despite recent improvements Montreal’s in defence, the Impact are usually a safe bet to concede.
Getting over my scepticism whenever expectancy levels rise, outlined in the opening paragraphs, my relatively confident prediction for this weekend is Home Win (2-1 or 3-1).
Impact Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3, right to left) GK: Evan Bush — Mike Petrasso, Rod Fanni, Jukka Raitala, Daniel Lovitz — Alejandro Silva, Samuel Piette, Saphir Taider - Raheem Edwards, Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Ignacio Piatti
Philadelphia Union Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left) GK: Andre Blake — Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Fabinho — Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya — Ilsinho, Borek Dockal, David Accam — CJ Sapong