Philadelphia Union (1-2-5, eight points) at Montreal Impact (0-4-3, three points)
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.; Where: Stade Saputo, Montreal, Canada
TV: The Comcast Network featuring play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera and color analyst Peter Pappas
Game notes (PDF): Click here
Shoot the ball.
Shots from distance, shots from inside the box; John Hackworth doesn’t care where.
Just shoot the ball.
That’s the directive from the Union manager to his club heading into Saturday’s match against Montreal, looking to avenge a 1-1 draw against the Impact last March. The Union is hungry for three points and against a sliding Montreal squad – it’s very likely it could happen.
“We have to pull the trigger a little more than we are. That’s something were trying to emphasis to our guys,” Hackworth said earlier this week during his midweek press conference. “If you get a look that might be a distance don’t be afraid. We just have to do more of that. When you take shots from distance it pulls the defense out a little bit. It opens up other opportunities whether that’s turning the corner or opening up combination plays down the middle. We need more variety and not rely on crosses as much.
While the Union has been holding edge in virtually every statistic over its last eight games, the lone win dating back to the Week No. 2 of the MLS season is perplexing given the talent and the plethora of chances created in the final third and penalty area of the opposition. Scoring goals isn’t an enigma, considering the club can also boast nine goals in eight regular season matches.
One player looking to add to his account on the season is forward Andrew Wenger. Earlier this week on the Union’s weekly radio show “The 90th Minute,” Wenger expressed a desire to go up Stade Saputo and score a goal. On Wednesday, he said reiterated the same statement.
“You always want to prove something whether it’s how much worth you have in yourself and or in the way you perform,” Wenger said. “It would be nice [to go up there and score], but I am also looking towards the rest of the season. We have a good group here with some very talented players and I think it’s only a matter of time before the flood gates open and we are scoring in bunches. I really do believe that. It’s about grinding things out and continuing to grow that continuity amongst ourselves and slowly but surely things will fall our way.”
While the Union looks to generate clear looks at goal, it must be mindful of a Montreal team that is quick on the counter attack and look to capitalize on mistakes. Clear memory of that was the goal scored by Impact talisman Marco DiVaio in the 80th minute. Defensively, the Union has been up to the task, with the quartet of Amobi Okugo, Aaron Wheeler in the center with Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams holding down the flanks. Along with goalkeeper Zac MacMath, the Union battled Houston to a scoreless draw at PPL Park last Saturday. MacMath enters this match with a 1.25 goals against average and a pair of shutouts.
Conversely, Montreal’s defense has its holes as the team has allowed 14 goals by the opposition this season highlighted by a 4-0 drubbing from defending MLS champions Sporting Kansas City last Saturday. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins, one of the league’s best has struggled this season, sporting a 2.00 GAA heading into this one.
All the more reason why this weekend’s motto is clearly: SHOOT THE BALL.
“Look, I’ll be honest. We have a ton of talent, but I think we are still in a work in progress,” said Hackworth. “I think we need to execute better and share the responsibilities a little bit more with our front five or six players [on the attack]. I think guys have been looking to provide that next to last pass more than they have to take it themselves. We are still working on those things in training and we are trying to urge whoever gets that chance to take it. I think once we turn that corner you’ll see some of those goals start to follow.”
Who do you want to see go on a goal scoring tear? Tell us below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org