Union vs. Impact
1 p.m. on 6ABC
After suffering four consecutive losses, the winless Union (0-4-2) will grasp for traction when they host the one-win Montreal Impact (1-2-3) on Saturday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium.
It's a battle at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Here are five things to know:
1. Finding confidence
The Union's nightmarish start continued last Friday with a devastating home loss to New York City FC. It was the club's fourth straight defeat, which sank the Union to the bottom of MLS with two points through six games.
"We've put ourselves in a tough spot with our start," Union attack Chris Pontius said. "We know what we have to fix, everything is fixable. We have the talent here, we've seen it throughout games, we just need to put it together for 90 minutes."
According to manager Jim Curtin, the Union's issues, while plentiful, aren't easy to pinpoint and correct. But what Curtin can identify is that his club is putting in the work to turn things around.
"It's not for lack of effort," Curtin said. "This group is so deserving of a result. I feel for the guys because I see how hard they work each and every week."
However, one fixable aspect of the Union's game is a stiffening of their upper lip. If the fragile Union can maintain a strong mental state through the ebbs and flows of Saturday's match and beyond, Curtin is confident his team will begin to see favorable results.
"When things aren't going well, guys start to press and confidence is down," he said. "You start to see guys try to do too much and be the one to make a big play.
"There will be mistakes that are made over the course of 90 minutes. It's how you bounce back, that's how you get points in this league. It's something we discussed. Is there a magic potion to cure it? I wish there was but there's not. But we have to get through this together."
2. Finding the net
If the Union want to begin that turnaround, they will need to hit the net. Curtin's club is tied for the second-fewest goals scored in MLS this season at five, despite adding 70 total shots in six games.
"We need to punish teams, we need to put some goals away," Pontius said. "The past few games, we've started the game brightly, turned over teams in bad spots but we just haven't punished them and got the goals that we needed."
Alejandro Bedoya believes those goals will arrive. The Union captain, who remained confident in his team's ability to climb out from this hole, blamed his club's attacking issues on "small margins" in the offensive third.
"We've stressed that it's important to have a high energy level, it's been intense," Bedoya said. "The results have not gone our way but guys haven't gotten discouraged, which is a good sign. We're still confident, we just have to tweak a few things, we have to get sharper in the final third and execute on some plays. It'll come. We're not concerned with it, we'll right the ship."
But believing is only part of the equation. Curtin identified some of the on-field issues that have kept the Union out of the net and plans on fixing them for Saturday.
"The only way you get to goal in this league is playing that forward ball," said Curtin, who believes his team isn't being aggressive enough with its passing. "We've worked on that a great deal. There hasn't been a ton of times where our wingers have gotten in behind, teams are keeping us in front of them right now. It's fair to say we've had good possession but it's not where the other team is really threatened."
3. Counter Impact
With just one more win on the season than the Union, the visiting Impact know exactly what to expect when the whistle blows at Talen Energy Stadium. They've been through it.
"It's going to be a tough game because they have to go out there and shine," Impact forward Dominic Oduro told the media. "The fans want a win, they want a win and the coaches want a win. They are going to come full force."
Expecting that pressure from the Union, the Impact will use their speed to work the counter attack. After all, it's their calling card.
"We're good at counter attacking, so hopefully we absorb the pressure and take that for our advantage," Oduro said. "They'll have the crowd behind them, so we have to be smart and absorb that pressure."
Curtin is well aware of what to expect.
"Montreal is a very dangerous team that is good on the counter attack and has some very experienced players," he said. "We'll have to be sharp. They have a very dangerous group."
Although the Impact, who are coming off a 2-1 win against Atlanta United, know the Union are vulnerable, they refuse to take the hosts lightly. As Impact coach Mauro Biello told the media, it's a league of parity.
"We know they haven't won a game yet but this is a good team, a team that will be desperate to win," Biello said. "When you look at the standings, you can get a false indication. They have quality players on that side and we have to be ready on our end to go get points."
4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: With Bedoya dropping from the No. 10 position back to his more natural No. 8 slot, the Union are expected to rely on Roland Alberg to take over as primary midfield playmaker for the second consecutive week. "His possession was deeper than we'd want it to be," Curtin said of Alberg's performance last week. "He connected a lot of his passes but we want them to take a little more risk and be a little more forward. He showed some good signs."
Impact: The Impact's MVP in 2016, Ignacio Piatti missed two games with an injury before returning last week with a vengeance. He scored a goal and registered five shots. In four career games against the Union, Piatti has two goals and two assists.
5. This and that
• The Union are undefeated hosting the Impact, holding a 2-0-4 home record against the Canadian side. However, the club is 3-5-5 all-time against the Impact, outscored, 22-15.
• For the third game, the Union will be without goalkeeper John McCarthy, who is recovering from a concussion. Jake McGuire is expected to be the primary backup. Defender Josh Yaro (shoulder) is also out, despite being near full health.
• Throughout training this week, Curtin, who may be looking to counter the Impact's forward speed, played right back Ray Gaddis with the starting team ahead of Keegan Rosenberry, and Jack Elliott ahead of Oguchi Onyewu.