In general, storylines revolving around players facing their old teams are drenched in clichés.
The player wants to prove himself … the player is excited to see old friends … the player isn’t sure what kind of response he’ll get from his old fans … the player cares more about winning than doing well personally in his return … blah blah blah.
But because Saturday’s MLS game between the Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo (4 p.m., The Comcast Network) comes just three weeks after the blockbuster trade that sent Jack McInerney from Philly to Montreal in exchange for Andrew Wenger, this one feels different.
It feels, well, juicier.
Sure, Wenger did his part to fill in the clichés during a press conference from PPL Park on Wednesday, saying some version of all of the above lines.
But good ol’ honest Jack told Matt De George of the Delaware County Daily Times that “if I scored three goals and we won 3-0, that would be an ideal scenario.” He also echoed what he told me three weeks ago about “wanting to prove they made a big mistake” when he takes the field opposite his old coaches and teammates - still a cliché but slightly more ominous.
Of course, we’re not going to know who “won” the trade based on Saturday’s game. Both Wenger and McInerney have already scored since the deal and seem to be relatively good fits with their new teams. And even though McInerney already had his breakout season last year while Wenger is still looking for his, it’s probably fair to say that both young players can be potential stars in this league if they figure a few things out.
But with the Union (1-2-5) winless in their last six games and without a goal from the run of play in their last two, you can bet that fans will start clamoring even more than they have been if the Union lose to a winless Montreal team. And if McInerney scores in an Impact win, you can probably DEFINITELY bet on a full-fledged freakout back in Philly.
Dave's prediction sure to be wrong: McInerney and Wenger both score in a 2-2 draw as the Union continue their quest for setting the MLS record for most ties in a season. We’ll give the other goals to Union-killer Marco Di Vaio and Cristian Maidana, who seems due to open his MLS scoring account for Philly.
Now here’s Steve Moore’s take and his prediction that will probably be less wrong than mine:
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The Union's streak of draws and overall record are certainly rubbing fans the wrong way. But it's more than that, at least right now. It's the lack of attacking chances (John Hackworth both shrugged off the team's low "shots on goals" total, and also said they have to pull the trigger more often). But it's also Hackworth's seeming acceptance of draws instead of frustration over missing out on a win. Especially at home.
There is no reason the Union should have accepted a 0-0 draw with Houston last weekend. When playing at home -- especially against a team that is struggling, like Houston -- the last 15 to 20 minutes of a tie game should be treated as if you're behind. Make attacking subs, take chances going forward. That's not what we saw last weekend. And that's not what we heard this week from Hackworth:
We legitimately feel as though we should’ve won five of our eight games for sure at a minimum. … What I will say though is that within our team, we’re very confident about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And my experiences as a coach is that the more you continue to play that way, the chances will turn. The tide will turn and we will see the results start to come our way."
Just as the Union -- who entered the season with high expectations -- should not accept draws at home, they should not be OK with playing for a draw Saturday in Montreal against a winless club. Stade Saputo is a tough place to play (this is actually Montreal's first game there this season after a few home dates at Olympic Stadium), but the Union are flat-out better than the Impact.
Also, judging from Hackworth's comments this week, we'll likely see striker-turned-centerback Aaron Wheeler yet again, instead of former MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry. Let's just say I don't agree, and leave it right there for now. We'll address it some more next week, especially if Wheeler loses track of Di Vaio once or twice in the penalty area.
I agree with Dave that Wenger gets on the board against his old club. But I'll go with another goal from Vincent Nogueira and a third from Maurice Edu. The Union finally break their endless string of draws in an entertaining tilt north of the border.
Steve's prediction sure to be wrong: Union 3, Impact 2.
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I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the untimely death of Sons of Ben founding member Eric Shertz. If you're unfamiliar with the story, Dave wrote eloquently on the subject this week.
I didn't know Eric very well, but I did know him, as did nearly every single Union fan. If you never met him, you knew him as that long-haired pony-tail guy at the front of the River End screaming and waving his scarf (he cut the pony tail off in recent years).
If you walked within 10 feet of Eric, chances are he introduced himself, and likely remembered your name. He walked me around my first Sons of Ben tailgate back in 2010, when it seemed like everyone already knew everyone else and I knew no one. He organized a season-long baggo tournament that was more put-together than most youth soccer leagues.
Eric's death at the far-too-young age of 38 has shaken up the Sons of Ben, who are as tight-knit as any fans can be. To non-soccer people, a group of fans who sing and drink and raise money for charity and hang out together away from the stadium might seem a little strange. But if you saw the outpouring of support last week from not only Union fans, but fans and supporters groups from nearly EVERY other soccer club in the United States, you realize that while you might think it's a little weird, Eric and the rest of the SOBs embrace it.
Eric's funeral was slated for Friday and a wake is scheduled for Saturday at Stoney's Pub in Delaware. You can donate to help with funeral costs and to help his family, including his 16-year-old son Gabe, at this link.
And you can bet on a moving tribute in The River End come May 10, when the Union next play at home against D.C. United.
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