After an absurdly bad first half of the season, D.C. United decided to reset. They focused on acquiring young, American talent to build a core upon which to build for the future. Tonight, we caught a glimpse of what that future might look like. Luis Silva opened the scoring midway through the first half, substitute Conor Doyle scored the game-winner in the second half, and Jared Jeffrey sealed the win in second half stoppage time. All three Americans also happen to have been playing elsewhere just a month ago.
Montreal drew level early in the second half, in a time and manner remarkably reminiscent of New England's equalizer last week. United were sluggish coming out of halftime, even with the 1-0 lead, and the Impact looked to take advantage. They got their chance when Jeb Brovsky, joining the attack late, worked a give-and-go with Davy Arnaud to cut out literally the entire D.C. defense. Brovsky's first-time shot to the far post was enough to beat Joe Willis.
Doyle's winner was deceptively simple. James Riley found some space on the left side, and with his second touch sent in a hard, dipping cross toward the six yard box. Doyle, making the near post run that nobody else playing for D.C. United has been willing or able to make this year, eluded both center backs, and touched the ball with the outside of his right foot, nutmegging Troy Perkins.
But Doyle was even better on the third goal. Just minutes after being denied by Perkins after being forced to shoot from distance due to a lack of support on a breakaway, Doyle again found himself racing at the Montreal goal. He outran the Montreal defense and drew Perkins off his line before sliding the ball to the right and an onrushing Jared Jeffrey, who put the ball away. It was only fair, really, as it was Jeffrey's pressure at midfield that created the turnover and (with some help from debutant Collin Martin's lovely pass) sprung Doyle for the break.
Silva's first half tally might have been the best of the bunch, though. After a strong build-up and a period of sustained pressure on Troy Perkins' net, Luis Silva collected the rebound from a blocked Nick DeLeon shot. He beat one man on the dribble, but found himself with two Impact defenders hemming him in and no good options as an outlet. So he just held onto the ball and worked a couple subtle touches to create the slimmest of shooting opportunities. His shot was placed perfectly to split the two defenders, and it had just enough on it to beat Perkins to his far post and give United the lead. The goal is Silva's third in as many games and gives the former Toronto FC man the team lead in goals on the season, which is now 22 games old (but who's counting?).
Tonight was a good night in D.C. The rain that poured down during the latter stages only energized the supporters, and I'm pretty sure this is the loudest the loud side has been in 2013. Plus, y'know, we won, and didn't suffer any injuries as we head into Wednesday's US Open Cup semifinal in Chicago. Dwayne De Rosario - who played as well as he has all year - was subbed off early and should be fresh come Wednesday. Silva and DeLeon also played no more than 75 minutes each and should be good to go midweek. Hugely, United has some much-needed confidence and some rare momentum going into the Open Cup semifinal.
Perhaps most importantly in the long view, though, we saw chemistry on the field tonight. We saw Doyle make an impact as a second half sub. We saw Jared Jeffrey play well on both sides of the ball, making Perry Kitchen's life easier going both directions. We saw the Black-and-Red give their defense a break for once by controlling possession (52.6% to 47.4%) and not giving up idiotic turnovers in compromising positions. The defense was far from flawless, making no attempt to stop Brovsky's equalizer and allowing Di Vaio far too much space early on, but they were, broadly speaking, competent on the night.
I would have been content with competence tonight, but we got something a bit better. From back to front, goal scorers and supporting talent, we got the competence, but we also got confidence and a win and - if we squint our eyes and tilt our heads just so - a little bit of hope for the future. I'll take it.
More from Black And Red United:
- D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact TV schedule, streaming, preview, projected lineup, prediction, and live thread
- Dempsey is great for MLS, Seattle, and US Soccer
- Now that Clint Dempsey is back in Major League Soccer, which US National Team players should D.C. United pursue?
- D.C. United Scouting Report: Montreal Impact
- The Spirit Season of Pain Continues, And An Urgent Message to the Players of Washington