Preview: Impact hosts Philadelphia Saturday at Stade Saputo

MONTREAL - The Montreal Impact hosts the Philadelphia Union this Saturday night, at 8pm, at Stade Saputo, with an extra weapon in its arsenal as Didier Drogba will make his debut for the bleu-blanc-noir in front of 20,801 supporters (TVA Sports, 98,5fm, TSN Radio 690).

“Didier will be in the 18 for Saturday and he will play, but it’s not going to be 90 minutes,” said Impact head coach Frank Klopas. “We want to make sure we bring him in slowly because we don’t want to have any setbacks. We had a good plan from the beginning and he’s been training really hard.’’

On this special occasion, the doors on the southwest side and concessions on the south side will be open as of 6pm. Percussions group Gotta Lago will be performing, along with the Budweiser band Psychic Shades and a number of special invitees from the African community will be in attendance, as part of the event “We are Together”.

Also, the Impact, in association with Budweiser, is offering fans a pre-game party at the Peel Pub in Montreal, with possible bus transportation for up to 70 fans who have a ticket for the game.

“We are excited. The city is excited and pumped up for him,’’ said forward Dominic Oduro. “It’s going to be a sellout so we can ride that momentum from the fans against a Philly team that keeps the ball really well. But that doesn’t matter, because tomorrow is our game at home.’’

Saturday could be a milestone match for Justin Mapp as well as he could become the youngest player in MLS history to reach 300 games played.

In addition, following his suspension last game, defender Laurent Ciman will be available after returning earlier from a scheduled vacation as IMFC’s back line is dealing with a few bumps and bruises.

The Union went through an emotional roller coaster over the past seven days, featuring a dramatic Open Cup 1-0 win midweek over the Fire, only to be followed by a devastating 3-3 draw back in MLS action, again against Chicago, allowing a goal against deep in stoppage time.

Philly is currently second to last in the entire league, with a record of 6-13-6 for 24 points from 25 games played. 

“They are probably going to come here to defend and then counter attack,’’ said defender Ambroise Oyongo. “As the home team, it will be up to us to take the game to them and push forward.’’ 

One of the few bright spots has been the play of midfielder Cristian Maidana, who is leading the league with 14 assists. Striker C.J. Sapong now has seven goals, while newly acquired Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta now has three games under his belt.

The Impact will play its next game on the road in Vancouver, against the Whitecaps FC at B.C. Place, in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship finals (Sportsnet, TVA Sports). IMFC will then play its next home game on Saturday, September 5, at 8pm against the Chicago Fire (ticketmaster.ca).

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