For the Philadelphia Union to be successful versus the Montreal Impact on Saturday (7:00 p.m., TCN), the club will have to put aside the pain of Wednesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss vs. Sporting Kansas City. A win would have gotten them into the final against Seattle and a chance to win their first trophy in just their third year of existence.
While that opportunity is gone, the club hopes to grow from the experience of being in that final four and take the positives into the final 18 games of the season.
The club must also put away the physical and mental fatigue of this being their third game in 7 nights. They'll have a week off from MLS play before their next league game at New York on July 21st, though they will play at home vs. English side Aston Villa on Wednesday.
As things stand now, the Union trail fifth-place Houston by 8 points, with Philadelphia holding two games in hand. For now, fifth-place is what four other Eastern Conference teams are looking at, since that's the final playoff spot.
To make the playoffs, the team must continue their strong two-way play under interim Team Manager John Hackworth. The club is 3-2-0 in MLS play since the coaching change. They have outscored their opponents 10-4, coming up with a 2-, a 3-, and a 4-goal game. Their 4-3-3 formation has allowed them more freedom and balance in the attack, with more numbers going forward than at any time this season.
To continue to be successful, players like Jack McInerney and Michael Farfan need to be consistently good the rest of the way. At the same time, the defense must not take a step back. When you allow just 4 goals in 5 games, you are bound to be successful. Amobi Okugo and Carlos Valdes have formed a good central defense team that can only be strengthened when new signing Bakary Soumare is deemed fit to play following knee surgery.
The next challenge for the Union is the Montreal Impact, as they come in to PPL Park for a 7 p.m. match on Saturday.
Montreal is fresh off a 2-1 home win over Columbus, which snapped a 3-game losing streak. During that 3-game losing streak, the club gave up 9 goals, 3 in each, while scoring just once.
Players To Watch
The midfielder has a club-high 5 goals and is tied for the team lead in assists with 5.
The Brazilian midfielder has 3 goals and 5 assists, leading the team in shots taken. He returns from a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Marco Di Vaio
While the great Italian goal scorer hasn't bagged an MLS goal in his first 4 games, he's not going to be shutout too much longer. He's the player to watch up top.
Montreal also has a couple of former Union players on their roster in Justin Mapp and Shavar Thomas, and they recently came to terms with legendary central defender Alessandro Nesta, who has yet to play for the club. MLS veterans Davy Arnaud and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts are playing major roles with this expansion side.
This is the first of two regular season games vs the first-year Impact, with the rematch on August 4th at Stade Saputo.
For the Union, it's all about defending their home turf, and trying to win 3 straight games, which would be a first this season.
See you Saturday at PPL Park.