Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin has backed his side to juggle their MLS and CONCACAF Champions League responsibilities ahead of their trip to CF Montreal.
The Union have two wins and one defeat in their first three games of the MLS season, and they advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League’s last eight with a resounding 4-0 win over El Salvador’s Alianza this week.
With Philadelphia hoping to challenge on two fronts this year, Curtin knows the ability so shuffle his pack will be crucial.
“It’s certainly a growing moment for our group, to know what these games are, having some experience in the Champions League with our veteran players,” he said after the win over Alianza.
“I think we used our depth, we showed we have a big squad which we can utilize and it’s going to be a really busy season.
“We have 55 games so it’s going to be very difficult all year long – we’re going to need each of them to step up when others are injured or with the national team, whatever it might be.
“It’s about surviving. I know we’re in March so all Americans are going to make that into a Basketball cliché, but it applies in soccer as well. It’s not always going to be perfect or pretty.”
Upcoming opponents Montreal are yet to pick up a point or score a goal in their first MLS campaign under Hernan Losada, who stressed the need for greater penetration after a 2-0 loss at Nashville SC.
“We had a lot of possession. But it was possession without real chances,” he said.
“All the things that Nashville did well are things we want to produce on our end like quick transitions, good crosses and good finishing.
“I want a team with less possession and more verticality and aggression.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CF Montreal – Sean Rea
Montreal are yet to score in MLS this season and created just 0.29 expected goals against Nashville SC last time out – the lowest such figure recorded by a team which played over 300 passes in the opposition’s half since 2014.
Rea’s tally of five chances created this season is only matched by Romell Quioto among his Montreal team-mates, and he may be needed to provide some inspiration next time out.
Philadelphia Union – Julian Carranza
Carranza has scored twice from his nine shots in MLS so far this season, putting him level with attacking midfielder Daniel Gazdag in the Union’s early-season scoring charts.
The Argentine hit eight league goals last season, and he will fancy his chances of bettering that tally in 2023.
MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN
Montreal are just the fifth team in MLS history to fail to score or pick up a single point from their first three games of a season, though the previous two – New York City FC in 2020 and the Seattle Sounders in 2018 – made the playoffs.
However, the hosts are winless in their last six meetings with the Union (D3 L3), a run stretching back to the start of the 2020 campaign.
Philadelphia’s run against Montreal represents the joint-longest active unbeaten streak held by any MLS team against the Canadian outfit, along with that recorded by Nashville.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
CF Montreal31.4 per cent
Philadelphia Union40.3 per cent
Draw28.8 per cent