Impact-Union Preview

BY foxsports • August 30, 2013

Marco Di Vaio is becoming the favorite for league MVP honors thanks to stellar performances in back-to-back wins for the Montreal Impact.

Jack McInerney might have once been a candidate, but he may not even be starting anymore for the Philadelphia Union.

These double-digit scorers are headed in opposite directions going into this critical Eastern Conference matchup Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Di Vaio took his league-leading goal total to 15 by scoring twice for the second consecutive game in last Saturday's 5-0 win over Houston. He led Montreal (12-7-5) to a 2-1 victory over D.C. United the previous week.

Those games were at home, and the East-leading Impact now will try to end an 0-4-1 MLS road skid in which they have been outscored 14-5.

"We're playing in Philadelphia next week and then we're in Boston, and Houston later on," Di Vaio said. "Those are all teams that we're competing with to make the playoffs, so it's going to be so important for us to get those points in road games."

It's not clear if Philadelphia (10-8-8) will have McInerney and his 10 goals in the lineup Saturday. Coach John Hackworth did not start him in last Sunday's 5-1 loss at New England, with the forward entering in the 76th minute and going without a goal for the ninth straight league game.

Hackworth did not divulge whether the All-Star is in his plans for this matchup.

"There's some competition in training right now," the coach told the league's official website. "Antoine (Hoppenot) is playing well, Jack's playing well, Seba (Sebastien Le Toux) had a good run when he was up there and he obviously creates some goal-scoring opportunities. We'll just have to see."

Hackworth will be forced to replace suspended defender Amobi Okugo, who was sent off against the Revolution and has played every match.

Philadelphia's back line failed to slow down Montreal when Okugo played all 90 minutes in a 5-3 loss May 25. Di Vaio netted a hat trick within the first 32 minutes.

Di Vaio was in fine form again last weekend, and Felipe Martins had a goal and two assists and former Union midfielder Justin Mapp added two assists.

"It's gotta be undoubtedly Montreal's two best games, the game they played against us up there and the game they played against Houston and Di Vaio was fantastic, Justin was fantastic, Felipe was on fire," Hackworth said. "So those guys are just clicking and that was an impressive performance."

Montreal has 41 points in the crowded East standings while the Union have 38 and have played two more games. The Impact expect a backlash from Philadelphia after its poor performance against the Revolution.

"It's going to be a difficult game, especially considering their last result in New England, they're not going to be happy with it," Montreal midfielder Davy Arnaud said.

The Impact will again be without coach Marco Schallibaum, who is completing a two-game suspension. Assistant Mauro Biello will again guide the team.

Mapp has three assists in his last two games after going seven games without one since he had two in the first meeting with the Union.