After 7 long years in the doldrums, Jim Curtin finally lifted the Philadelphia Union into the Play-offs last season. He’s looking good for a repeat in 2019, with The U riding high at the summit of the Eastern Conference.
But all has not been plain sailing lately despite maintaining top spot. Form has been inconsistent, much like the Impact’s own early season up and down ride. Since coming off a five game unbeaten streak in mid-May, the Union has gone LDWWDLWDLW, in its last ten.
But in a league where teams are failing to find positive patterns of results, they are still on course for their best-ever Conference placing, third in 2011, a year before Montreal joined MLS.
Corey Burke has been troublesome to the Impact in recent meetings between the clubs, and although he’s not likely to feature Saturday evening, another striker, German-born Pole, Kacper Przybylko is only too willing to carry on the trend set by the Jamaican.
Przybylko is a former Polish u21 international, and has played his way into favour almost by accident, having spent last season and the beginning of this, loaned out to Bethlehem Steel of the USL.
He was recalled, making his debut coming off the bench in April’s 3-0 defeat of Montreal Impact and has rarely looked back since. Nine goals this season in 16 games (12 in 18 if you include his USL total) is exactly why the 6ft 4in Pole needs to be earmarked for special attention.
Montreal will take heart from their midweek victory in the Canadian Championship, but there are other positives of note. Star striker, Ignacio Piatti made a comeback following lengthy injury in that game, and Finnish international Lassi Lappalainen has joined the ranks on loan from Bologna. The 20 year-old may well see action against the Conference leaders.
The Impact’s record at home to Philadelphia is in their favour at 6-1-2, although their opponents won at Stade Saputo last season, 0-2, in a game that was the lowest ebb in a pitiful Impact slump.
It remains to be seen if the influential Jamiro Monteiro, a scorer from the penalty spot in the previous meeting with Montreal, will return from injury for the Union, although latest news suggests this to be unlikely. Definitely out is left-sided defender Kai Wagner. The last player to be red-carded against the Impact (90th min of previous meeting), Wagner will be missing, suspended due to yellow-card accumulation.
His likely replacement is Fabinho, although, Jim Curtin may opt to switch Gaddis to the left flank and introduce RJ Allen for his Union debut at right-back.
Victor Cabrera’s elbow injury sustained last Wednesday evening, will not require surgery, but it will keep him from featuring for Montreal. Otherwise, apart from the absence of Samuel Piette and the suspension of Bacary Sagna following his red card in Columbus, they have a clean bill of health.
Line-ups (Projected) -
IMFC - Bush - Brault-Guillard, Diallo, Raitala, Lovitz - Okwonkwo, Azira, Taider, Shome - Piatti, Urruti
Union - Blake - Gaddis, Elliott, Trusty, Fabinho - Medunjanin - Bedoya, Fabian, Aronson - Przylbylko, Picault
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Assistant Referees: Corey Rockwell, Cory Richardson
4th Official: Luis Guardia
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero
Thanks to Alex Klein and Matt Ralph of The Brotherly Game for their assistance in compiling the information on Philadelphia Union for this article.