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Philadelphia Union notes: Replacing Kai Wagner, Cory Burke update

The Union will be shorthanded when they face a tricky foe in the Montreal Impact Saturday


CHESTER, Pa. The Philadelphia Union have typically had a difficult challenge when facing the Montreal Impact

The Union are 5-8-6 all-time in MLS play against the Quebec outfit, and have suffered a lopsided defeat at the hands of the Impact in each of the last two seasons. 

Additionally, the Union have the worst goal differential in club history against Montreal of all Eastern Conference opponents at -9.

Even though there is plenty going against Jim Curtin’s side historically, it enters Saturday match at Stade Saputo off a momentum-changing victory over the Chicago Fire and having already beaten the Impact once this season

The Union will also catch a break by not having to face Impact midfielder Samuel Piette, who is out due to injury, and Bacary Sagna, serving a red-card suspension.

The first-place side in the Eastern Conference is also avoiding a less-than-100 percent healthy Ignacio Piatti, who is working back to full fitness. 

“They have some injuries,” Curtin said Wednesday. “They’ve had some turnover on their roster. Piatti is coming back healthy, one of the key pieces they’ve been without for the whole year… They are thin right now, but their backs are up against the wall. Still a very good roster and group of players.” 

Even though the Impact have a depleted squad and a four-game league losing streak, the Union can’t take them lightly. Curtin compared Montreal’s current state to the Real Salt Lake side that thumped the Union 4-0 July 14.

“Salt Lake had an injury or two, but they were right at the red playoff line and they were motivated when we went there and we got punched in the mouth,” Curtin said.

The Union will not be at full strength either with Kai Wagner serving a suspension for yellow-card accumulation and Jamiro Monteiro still recovering from an ankle injury. 

Wagner’s place in the starting XI is up for grabs in an open competition between Fabinho, Matthew Real and R.J. Allen.

“Kai will be missed for sure,” Curtin said. “He’s done a great job for us at left back. The play where he gets his fifth yellow card of the season is very preventable. Auston (Trusty) gets pulled out of the middle and Kai has to take a foul from behind.” 

Apr 20, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner (27) and Montreal Impact forward Orji Okwonkwo (18) in action during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s next-man-up mentality,” Curtin added. “We’ve had a good mentality of that all year. We have a variety of different things we could choose from. I would say between Fabinho, Matt Real and RJ Allen. We’re going to let the week finish out. Guys are competing right now for the spot.” 

Philadelphia is 1-1-1 without Wagner in the lineup. The German left back last missed the loss to RSL due to a knock he picked up late in the week in training. In that game, Fabinho took his place, while backup right back Olivier Mbaizo, currently out injured, started the contests against Vancouver and FC Cincinnati with Ray Gaddis sliding over to left back. 

Since Fabinho did not have his best game against Real Salt Lake, the natural selection at left back would be Real, who provided an assist when he came off the bench for his first MLS appearance of the season on July 7 against Orlando City SC.

Real has been playing next to Mark McKenzie on the back line for USL Championship-affiliate Bethlehem Steel, but in recent weeks has caught the attention of the Union coaching staff. 

“(Real)’s been much better,” Curtin said. “He’s been really, really solid. I think even in the limited minutes he’s gotten with the first team, he’s left a good impression. In all young players development, opportunities sometime present themselves at different points of the year and you have to always be ready for them. I think he’s worked incredibly hard and has a good base of fitness, he’s 90-minutes fit, which is important also.” 

Monteiro likely still out

In midfield, the Union are likely to be without Jamiro Monteiro for the fourth straight game. If that is the case, Brenden Aaronson could start again, or Curtin could hand Anthony Fontana an extended look after he scored against Chicago Saturday.

As for Monteiro, the Union are being patient with the 25-year-old because of how much his ankle is affected by his dynamic ability on the ball. 

Jul 3, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Jamiro Monteiro (35) looks to kick the ball during the first half against the Orlando City at Orlando City Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

“We can still get victories,” Curtin said. “We’re not defined by one player. He’s working very hard to come back fully fit. We’ll be smart that he is, in fact, 100 percent before we put him back on the field. So much of his game is how quick he is, his explosiveness and we don’t want to put him out there when he doesn’t have that.

“It’ll be close for the weekend, but I don’t think he’s much further than two weeks out at the worst-case scenario. We have some ideas if he is involved. We have some ideas if he comes off the bench, or if he’s out.” 

Up top, the Union will likely continue to work Andrew Wooten into the squad through bench minutes, but Kacper Przybylko and Fafa Picault need to improve on their production in front of net, with only one shot on goal combined in the last two games. 

Burke loan coming soon?

Cory Burke is the other forward on the roster, but is still inactive due to ongoing visa issues. Burke has been training back home in Jamaica and the Union are working on securing a loan outside of the United States so he can get back to match fitness. 

“We’re exploring all possibilities right now in terms of loaning him out,” Curtin said. “We’re hoping something comes soon. You guys will be the first to hear it as soon as it is official. We’re actively working to get him back with us as well. There’s a timetable that I have in my brain, but it might not mean a lot because there’s a lot of variables that go into it. You can tell he does miss the group. The group misses him. He’s a great forward. I have intrigue to see what he would look like with Kacper, Fafa, Andrew and see the dynamic those four bring. Right now, it’s out of our hands.” 

“Cory wants to be back on the field as quick as possible,” Curtin added. “He’s staying in shape right now. We’re in contact with him and hopefully there’s a solution that makes sense for all parties in the coming weeks as the transfer window is closing. Realistically with us, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be back on our roster (this season), but we do want to keep him going and find a place for him to play.” 

 

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