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Matchday 17: What Do You Mean By Impact?

Jul 14, 2012, 5:28 PM EDT

The Philadelphia Union host MLS expansion side Montreal Impact tonight at PPL Park at 7PM.
hoppenot

The Union will look to make it three league wins in a row tonight as they host the expansion Montreal Impact at PPL Park (7PM/Comcast SportsNet). It’s been a busy last couple of weeks for the Union, who will be playing their fourth game in 11 days. They’re coming off of Wednesday night’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City in the semifinals of the US Open Cup.

The 2-0 loss marked the first time the Union had been held off of the scoresheet since losing 1-0 to D.C. United back on June 16th. By and large the Union have been revitalized offensively under interim manager John Hackworth. Inserting Jack McInereny into the starting lineup has had a profound effect on their goalscoring fortunes. Also, Antoine Hoppenot has been a revelation coming in off the bench at the 60 minute mark.

Hoppenot has created a role for himself not unlike Vinny “The Microwave” Johnson did for the Bad Boy era Detroit Pistons in terms of bringing instant offense. Hoppenot is completely unafraid. Upon entering the game he sprints from the touchline to top of the 4-3-3 and proceeds to relentlessly run at and by opposing defenders.

It’s also no coincidence that the Union are winning and both Freddy Adu and Michael Farfan are playing their best soccer of the season. You are finally starting to see some consistency out of Adu, who just toys with people when he’s fully engaged in the match. Michael Farfan, although considerably less flashy, brings a unique blend of skill and work rate. Adu, who is deployed on the left, and Farfan, who is deployed on the right, bring a balance to the field and make it difficult for opposing defenses to shade their backline to one side.

Montreal is coming off of a 2-1 win over Columbus last week. The big story out of Montreal is their signing of World Cup winner and former AC Milan stalwart Alessandro Nesta. Fortunately for the the Union, but unfortunately for fans going to the game tonight, Nesta is not yet fit and will not make his MLS debut this evening. The Impact need all the help they can get along the backline as they’ve conceded a league-worst 36 goals thus far.

One face Union fans will recognize and likely see tonight is former Union player Justin Mapp, who was selected by the Impact in the expansion draft. Mapp has appeared in 16 games for Montreal, scoring two goals and adding two assists. The left-footed Mapp was maddeningly inconsistent when he wore the blue and gold. You never knew what to expect from him from game to game. He could light up a keeper with a stunning shot from 30 yards out or he could just as easily be completely invisible for 90 minutes.

Montreal brings a few other familiar names with them including former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, MLS veteran Davy Arnaud and yet another former Union player – Shavar Thomas. Recently signed designated player Marco Di Vaio, who has appeared in four games since joining the Impact, picked up his first assist last week. The Union centerback pairing of Carlos Valdes and Amobi Okugo will have to be aware of Di Vaio at all times.

Considering the compressed schedule they’ve dealt over the lat two weeks, it may be asking a bit much to expect the Union to play with as much energy as they have since Hackworth took over. The interim manager has basically kept the same lineup since taking over save for rotating Gabriel Gomez and Michael Lahoud. However, their newly found confidence should be enough to pick up the three points against Montreal.

I’ll say this one ends 3-1 Union.