Match Preview: Montreal Impact


Some matchups are funky.

The games never seem to go according to plan, nobody is at their best, and the game devolves into more of a mess than a match. 

When Montreal Impact comes to Talen Energy Stadium, messiness tends to follow. Whether it's Nacho Piatti running rampant, late comebacks led by unlikely heroes, or simply a big letdown after an early goal, this matchup gives Philly issues. 

But this year Piatti is out with a knee injury and the Union have a chance to right the ship as they enter a run of six home games out of their next eight. 

The Impact have continued to build on last season's sit-deep-and-counter system by adding speed to the counterattack. After Alejandro Silva bounced in the offseason, they waited for Omar Browne's Concacaf Champions League run to end before snapping up the dangerous Panamanian attacker. Browne only began training with the club this week, so he's likely an option off the bench on Saturday. Until Browne is ready to roll, the Impact will come at Philly with three new pieces in attack. Harry Novillo signed in December from the A-League (the same Australian division that brought Fabinho to the U) and Orji Okwonkwo from Bologna. Max Urruti was also signed from FC Dallas to take up the industrious, central shuttling striker role that Quincy Amarikwa filled in 2018. 

Those front three are key with Piatti missing, because Montreal doesn't generate a ton of chances and they need to finish those they get. The Impact are, however, built to create good chances. And with Mark McKenzie joining the back line for the first time this weekend the Union must retain a high defensive line so they don't face sudden rushes with a backpedaling defense. 

Philadelphia's big question involves replacing Marco Fabian. The Mexican international is likely out this weekend, and while Brenden Aaronson is likely to replace him at the No. 10 role, that opens up the left-sided No. 8 position. Jamiro Monteiro started there last weekend and showed some of his top-end defensive skill, but the new signing was also caught on the ball a few times and needs to improve his speed of play. 

At home, Curtin could turn to Ilsinho to start with Monteiro in reserve. That would give the Union a more attacking look to start, and Philly's head coach has already said he'd like to get out in front given that his team has yet to score in the first half hour of a match in 2019. 

Up front, Sergio Santos continues to recover from an injury so David Accam, Fafa Picault, and Cory Burke are again the top options. However, Kacper Przybylko's goalscoring form in Bethlehem has put the spotlight on the big striker with elite finishing skill. There's a good chance Przybylko makes the game day 18 for the first time and it will be interesting to see how Curtin uses a player he has often called his best finisher. 

Finally, the Union will likely turn to Mark McKenzie in Auston Trusty's absence. A red card against LA Galaxy means Trusty misses the first minutes of his MLS career, and McKenzie has been waiting patiently for a chance to show his stuff in 2019. Curtin has said that the coaching staff is still deciding who will start at left center back given that both McKenzie and Jack Elliott have traditionally lined up on the right. Regardless of who takes up which role -- and with respect to Trusty -- this is the Union's best attacking CB pairing, and Philly will need both players to be comfortable carrying the ball out of the back and drawing Montreal from their deep defensive shell. 

This isn't a revenge match, but after last year's 4-1 defeat in Talen, Philly will want to make a big statement by taking a lead and holding it. Winning at home is the key to getting a home playoff match, and that becomes even more important this season with the league's new playoff format. 

Be there for this huge early season showdown at 1:00 p.m. ET at Talen Energy Stadium.