Impact still have playoff hopes ahead of Union match
Striker Jack McInerney faces former Philadelphia club for 2nd time
Striker Jack McInerney can't imagine a better feeling than scoring against his former club.
McInerney will face his former Philadelphia teammates for just the second time when the last-place Montreal Impact visits the Union at PPL Park on Saturday (7 p.m. ET).
"This is definitely a big game," McInerney said Thursday. "It's exciting.
"There are still a lot of games left in the league where we can pick up points. We have to go in and get the three points if we want to make ourselves known in the league."
After a successful 95-game career with the Union, the 22-year-old was traded to the Impact in April, four games into the '14 Major League Soccer season. McInerney has scored nine goals in all competitions for the Impact, including three in the Amway Canadian Championship.
We want [ Jack McInerney] to feel that he's an important player here. He has to go over there with a chip on his shoulder to that stadium and show those people wrong.- Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins
In his first game against the Union just two weeks after the trade, McInerney was kept off the scoresheet in Montreal's 1-0 victory.
"He needs to make his mark on the game," goalkeeper Troy Perkins said of the striker known as Jack Mac. "We want him to feel that he's an important player here.
"He has to go over there with a chip on his shoulder to that stadium and show those people wrong."
All signs point to McInerney starting against the Union. In Montreal's midweek CONCACAF Champions League victory over El Salvador's C.D. FAS, McInerney was an unused substitute as manager Frank Klopas kept striker Marco Di Vaio on the pitch for the entire match.
The Impact (3-13-5) is looking to build on that 1-0 defeat of FAS on Tuesday, the team's first win in five weeks. Montreal, last in the MLS Eastern Conference with just 14 points from 21 games, is on a six-game losing streak in the league.
"We have to remain on a high," said Impact defender Hassoun Camara after Tuesday's win. "That's the only way our play will build and develop.
"We need to grow, even when it's hard to do. When we're hurting, it's tough to perform technically. We might be stronger technically than some other MLS teams, but we need to start with a better desire to win."
Added captain Patrice Bernier after the nail-biting victory: "Confidence will come one day at a time. We have to build on our win. We simply have to focus on the positives. Those positives will give us energy. When you lose, you remove all that good energy. It's all mental."
The Union (5-8-9), undefeated in its last four MLS matches, has made a few personnel changes since McInerney was sent north of the border for forward Andrew Wenger.
In June, after a 3-7-6 start to the season, Philadelphia fired manager John Hackworth and appointed Jim Curtin as interim coach. Since Hackworth's dismissal, the seventh-place Union has gone 2-1-3 and is making a legitimate push for a playoff spot.
On Wednesday, Philadelphia signed Algerian international goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, who may make his MLS debut versus the Impact. Once match fit, Mbolhi will replace Philly's Zac MacMath as the starter.
And at the start of this week, just before the end of the MLS transfer window, defender Carlos Valdes signed a multi-year deal with Philadelphia. The Colombian international returns to the Union after a year-and-a-half absence that included loan spells in his native country and Argentina.
Up front against the Impact, Philadelphia will look to goalscorers Sebastien LeToux and Connor Casey, who both have two goals in their last four games.
"They're going to come out and they're going to high press us from the beginning," said Perkins, who will likely be in net after backup goalie Evan Bush earned the clean sheet in the Champions League on Tuesday. "It's their house, they want three points to move up in the standings but we want three points as well, just to close the gap.
"It's a team that's fighting right now. They don't have the best quality, but they fight and compete. And that's where we have to match them. We have to let our quality take over. This team is big, strong, athletic, and we have to match that."
Montreal will also need to regain its scoring touch, having scored just five times over its six-game losing streak with none coming from McInerney.
Since joining MLS, the Impact has had success against the Union. After losing the inaugural encounter in 2012, Montreal has since beaten Philadelphia four times in six games (4-0-2) but hasn't won on the road this season.