After a two-week hiatus, the Union are back in action against the Impact in an Eastern Conference matchup with heavy playoff implications.
The Union (12-4-11, 40 points, 5th in East) kick off a stretch of five matches in fifteen days by taking on the Impact (11-3-14, 36 points, 6th in the East) Saturday in Chester.
The U are currently four points above Montreal and six above the red line. A Union win at home would put them seven points clear of Montreal with a match still in hand; a loss would put Montreal on the Union’s heels with just a single point and match separating the teams.
Montreal has the worst away record of any team in a playoff position right now, and has gained just a single point when scored upon first. A fast start is in order from the Union, perhaps from Cory Burke or one of the wings; if they do that, with Andre Blake in net, they’ll be well on their way to three points and a playoff spot that’s even more sure than it is now. According to 538, the Union currently have a 93 percent chance of going to the playoffs, while Montreal sits at 38 percent.
A few key Union players are on the injury report. Borek Dockal is questionable with the ankle injury he picked up in Orlando; he returned to training within the last couple days and was what manager Jim Curtin called “sharp”, but it remains to be seen if he’s match fit. Ilsinho is questionable but will not play due to the adductor strain he suffered during the Orlando match, as he’s still at least a couple weeks away. Newly absent from the report is Anthony Fontana, who may be called upon to fill Dockal’s spot if he’s unable to go. For Montreal, defender Kyle Fisher is out with a quad injury.
The two teams met earlier this year on May 12th, with the Union taking all three points across the border from Canada with a 2-0 shutout. That was the start of the Cory Burke hype train, as Burke scored the first goal of his career in the 43rd minute to give the Union the lead. Haris Medunjanin added on, Andre Blake kept his 20th clean sheet of his career, and the U came home victorious.
The schedule does the U no favors, so they need to pick up points in matches like this one. After this match, the Union go to Seattle for a brutal cross-country mid-week battle with the white-hot Sounders on the 19th, then come home to prepare to face Kansas City on Sunday the 23rd. Following that, they go to Houston to play for the first trophy in the club’s history in the Open Cup Final on the 26th, after which they go to Columbus on the 29th to face the Crew with a chance to pick up ground on a possible first-round home playoff match.
Do they do it? It’s hard to pick against them right now, even with Montreal coming off a 3-0 win against the Red Bulls. Ignacio Piatti probably conjurs a moment of brilliance for the Impact, but I say three points to the U.
Union 2 – Impact 1