The Last Word: D.C. United Takes Two Steps Forward Against Montreal Impact, and Two Steps Back

Bill Hamid was huge again for the Black-and-Red. - Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There were positives for D.C. United on Saturday night against the Montreal Impact, but there were also negatives. In the end, United managed to salvage a point, but later in the season they will likely regret the two points which got away.

We were a confident lot heading into D.C. United's home match against worst-in-the-league Montreal Impact.  And, while D.C. United achieved some very important milestones during the match, they also displayed shortcomings which are all too familiar for their fans.  In the end, the Black-and-Red managed to get a 1-1 draw against their Canadian rivals, essentially treading water for the weekend as they remained in the exact same place in the league's Supporters' Shield standings (8th)--but there is no doubt this is a frustrating result which left points on the table.

Their Words:

- Ryan Keefer:  "On a pleasant May night at RFK before 14,106, Eddie Johnson opened his account with D.C. United after two much-maligned and often talked about months. While his goal was fun to watch for those in attendance, the game itself felt like a missed opportunity as D.C. drew with the Montreal Impact 1-1...In a game where they spent a good portion of the time crossing balls into the box to Impact defenders, D.C. improved their shot selection early in the second from Chris Rolfe and Perry Kitchen, though the former went into the side netting and the latter was saved. But in the 56th minute, Cristian Fernandez played a clumsy ball from his knee that Justin Mapp collected, and Mapp held off Fernandez long enough to find Jack McInerney, who got away from Bobby Boswell just enough to score for the Impact."

- Gene Wang, via washingtonpost.com:  "Johnson’s first tally of the season came in the 84th minute after Fabian Espindola sent a cross his teammate headed into the back of the net. The goal assured United would not lose at home for only the second time this year. D.C. has collected at least one point in seven of eight matches...Olsen spoke earlier this week about the importance of applying pressure early and not allowing Montreal to gain confidence. United didn’t adhere to that blueprint during much of the first half but did manage several chances, beginning with Korb’s right-footed bid on the right side of the field that goalkeeper Troy Perkins (three saves) tracked down above his head."

- Pablo Maurer, via mlssoccer.com:   "But it was Johnson, one of the more highly- publicized exclusions from Jurgen Klinsmann’s 30-man U.S. Men’s National Team squad, who scored his first goal as a member of D.C. United, earning his team a well-deserved point. The 30-year-old American did what he does best by heading home Fabian Espindola’s cross for his first goal in 736 minutes of league play."

- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com:  “I hate to say it, but I feel okay with the tie because I thought they were pretty good on the night, and I was surprised at their energy level after coming off of Wednesday. Saying that, I don’t think we came with the right enthusiasm for the game in the first half. There was some tactical stuff and some lack of quality in the way we played at times. We still needed to turn it up some. I felt that we did that in the second half. The ball moved a little quicker for us in the second half. There were times that they were trying to slow down the game and that proved difficult for us. They had some great chances and I’ve been saying it all week, they’re as good as it comes in terms of the counter. They’re certainly not as bad as their record indicates. I give them credit.”

Ben Olsenvia dcunited.com:  On Eddie Johnson's goal:  “It’s good for him to score a goal. He’s in so many good spots and we’ve let him down a lot with lack of quality service. He knows what to do in the six yard box when the ball is delivered properly. We just need to continue to give him that type of service and he’ll start getting on the board more.”  

- Montreal Impact coach Frank Klopas, via dcunited.com:  “When they scored in the 83rd minute it felt like a little bit of a disappointment. The thing is, it’s something to build on. I think both teams had chances, but the result was 1-1. We had some very good looks late, but it just didn’t happen...When we settled down, we were able to get in to a good rhythm and play. I think we had some very good moments and it’s really something to build on. All the guys gave everything they had and now we have a week to prepare for the next game. We just have to keep working and go on the road. We're close and maybe the next one is the one where we get the result.”

- Bill Hamid, via dcunited.com:  On response to going down a goal:  “Yeah, I mean we were all communicating to each other after the goal, 'lets pick it up, lets pick it up' and we didn’t give up. You know, that shows our heart, but at the same time we as a team are probably going to look at this and say that we have to do better as a unit on the field.” 

- Montreal Impact forward Jack McInerney, via dcunited.com:  "Obviously it’s disappointing to get the draw. We came out in the first ten minutes and we really struggled, but we adjusted and I think we really took the game to them. We created more and better chances than they did. At the end of the day, if we want to make a run into the playoffs, we’ll need to do a better job at finishing those chances. If we had put our chances away tonight, it could have been two or three to zero. I think we came in and surprised a lot of people. We’ll take the point and move on to the next game.”

- Bobby Boswell, via dcunited.com:  “Yeah, I think any time we play at home we want to win, so it’s pretty disappointing. You know, we wanted to come out and really get all over them. I don’t think our start was too pleasing for ourselves. Say what you want, we weren’t really happy with the pitch, but both teams have to play on it, so we will look at the film and see what we can do better. Obviously, take care of the ball, maybe move a little more for each other, but I think we had a sense of urgency in the second half.”

Bobby Boswellvia dcunited.com:  On rallying around Eddie Johnson:  “I think the biggest thing is that he is the hardest critic of himself. That is kind of a whole locker room of guys like that, you know, we are harder on ourselves than the media is. Obviously, him being the big name that he is, he is going to get more attention. And, you know, he wants to score. He obviously wants to get his goals, but at the same time, he wants to win. He is the first guy to celebrate and congratulate guys when they score and he is a good teammate in that regard. He is here to help the team win. When Eddie is out there we are a better team, that’s the bottom line. Whether he is scoring, setting them up or flicking balls on and defending, he has found a way to help the team get results. And, as long as he keeps doing that we are going to have his back all the way.”

- Montreal Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins, via dcunited.com:  "I think it was a fantastic effort from everyone. There was no sandbagging tonight from anyone. Everyone carried their weight tonight. At times you’re going to get a result like that where it’s 1-1. We deserved more, but they could have had more too. Tying 1-1 on the road and to play positively like we did is a fantastic result. I think the result was fair. They hit the crossbar twice and I think they had more clear chances than we did. But on the flipside of that, we had some shots in the first and second half, but that’s the game.”

My Words:

The match against Montreal saw important developments for this year's D.C. United team.  Eddie Johnson finally answered the most distracting question of the first third of the season: when will EJ score?  Coaches and teammates have said consistently once he notched his first goal, more would follow in short order.  That time has now arrived.  Other positives on the night included Bill Hamid's superb play, Chris Korb's best game since the end of the 2012 season, and the highest home attendance at RFK Stadium of the year.  On the topic of Bill Hamid, he is singlehandedly ensuring D.C. United has a shot in every game right now.

But, even with these positives, the bottomline is D.C. United was playing the worst team in the league at home and didn't get 3 points.  Good teams need to win these kinds of games, because as we saw in 2012, an excellent season can be put together by beating the bottom five teams in the Eastern Conference consistently, winning at home, and then getting the occasional opportune result on the road.  This is MLS, however, so its rare the narratives are so simplistic.  D.C. United needs to figure out the defensive miscues still plaguing them a couple times per game.  If not for Hamid (and Andrew Dykstra), the team's defense would have given up much more than 12 goals in 10 matches (only three teams have given up fewer goals).  Additionally, the team's performances are too often pegged to the relative quality of their opponent rather than an objective standard of play dictated by the Black-and-Red.

The Last Word:

Points were left on the table Saturday against Montreal.  Certainly getting the draw was better than losing, and a loss was headed D.C. United's way until the team put together a beautiful team sequence and build up which finally found Fabian Espindola putting a quality cross into the box and Eddie Johnson deftly scoring the header.  For the first time this season, D.C. United scored a late-game goal to alter a match result.  For the season, D.C. United is still down 4 points due to late game goals, but the 1 point they clawed back on Saturday night is a positive trend.

Date Home Team Visiting Team Goal Scorer Minute Final Result DCU Points Dropped/Gained
8-Mar-14 D.C. United Columbus Crew Federico Higuain (CLB) 90' 0-3 0
29-Mar-14 D.C. United Chicago Fire Quincy Amarikwa (Chi) 82' 2-2 -2
5-Apr-14 D.C. United New England Revolution Chris Rolfe (DCU) 90'+3' 2-0 0
19-Apr-14 Columbus Crew D.C. United Hector Jimenez (CLB) 90' 1-1 -2
3-May-14 Portland Timbers D.C. United Own Goal against POR (Mamadou Danso) 78' 2-3 0
3-May-14 Portland Timbers D.C. United Maximiliano Urruti (POR) 90'+4' 2-3 -1
17-May-14 D.C. United Montreal Impact Eddie Johnson (DCU) 84' 1-1 1

This is a big week for D.C. United, with games on Wednesday and Saturday.  Perhaps the draw against the Impact will feel better if D.C. United beats the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night.  It will feel even better if the team beats the red-hot New England Revolution on the road Saturday as well.  But whether it feels better or not at the end of the week, two points were left on the table against the league's worst team.

 How bad was the draw against the Impact?  Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

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