CHESTER, Pa. -- The Montreal Impact enter PPL Park Saturday night with the label of the worst team in MLS. And that terrifies the resurgent Union.
“It’s a dangerous game, it’s a tricky game,” interim Union manager Jim Curtin, who has the Union undefeated in their last five games, said. “It’s been different breaks that have gone against them this year. Sometimes that’s the most difficult team to play against — the kind that’s struggling and guys are fighting for positions and fighting for jobs. We’re not going to take them lightly, there’s no easy games in MLS.”
Those bad breaks have caused the Impact to lose six straight matches leading up to Saturday. They've mustered a forgettable 3-13-5 overall record. On paper, the visitors should be easy work for the 5-8-9 Union. But history has proven that Impact striker Marco Di Vaio is the great equalizer.
Since 2012, the Union are 1-4-2 against the Impact. Di Vaio has five goals in his last five games against the Union and a total of four goals this season.
“Di Vaio is a guy that has given us problems,” Curtin said. “We have a tough time dealing with him for 90 minutes. We’re pretty good at dealing with him for 89 minutes sometimes, but he just needs that one look. He’s a handful, he’s a world-class goal scorer. It’s a team we’re not going to take lightly.”
Add Jack McInerney next to Di Vaio, and you have the Union’s attention. The former Union star leads the Impact with six goals.
“It’s a team thing against a guy like Jack,” Curtin said. “You have to be on the same page. With him and Di Vaio up there, if they play together, you have two guys that can cause a lot of problems running at our back line. They are dangerous.”
The Union’s ability to hamper the Impact attack could take a hit Saturday, as it’s unclear whether the World Cup players — goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi or center back Carlos Valdes — will be in the lineup after taking time off following their trip to Brazil.
The club could also be without Maurice Edu, who played 45 minutes for the MLS All-Stars against Bayern Munich on Wednesday in Portland. If Valdes can’t make the start next to Ethan White, Edu may be forced into a quick recovery.
Meanwhile Zac MacMath will make the start in goal should Mbolhi deny the opportunity.
“If he’s ready, he’ll start,” Curtin said of Mbolhi. “If not, Zac will do another good job for us. It’s a good issue to have. We have two goalkeepers that are solid.”
Yet despite the roster uncertainty, Curtin needs hard results. As it stands, the Union are four points out of playoff position with a bulk of their remaining games at PPL Park. There are 12 matches left in the season.
“It’s basically in our hands if we make the playoffs or not, we’ll have no one to answer to but ourselves,” Curtin said. “Handle your business at home and you’re in a really good spot.”