D.C. United fell behind early once again, but clawed their way back to a 1-1 result on Saturday night against the Montreal Impact. Matteo Mancosu scored in the 5th minute to give the Canadians the advantage, but Yamil Asad’s 9th goal of the season in the 70th minute split the points between the two Eastern Conference teams.
United, still at the bottom of the conference table, needed a result of some sort against Montreal, a team they most likey have to overtake to make the playoffs. Montreal lead the Black-and-Red by 11 points in the standings, but have played five more games than United.
A week after their 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids, head coach Ben Olsen named an unchanged starting lineup, but shifted into a 4231 formation. Kofi Opare retained his spot in the center of defense, with Frederic Brillant remaining on the bench. Paul Arriola returned from suspension, but was on the bench, as Junior Moreno and Russell Canouse were preferred in the midfield. Travis Worra and Chris Odoi-Atsem also made the bench for United.
In a big game for the Black-and-Red, they suffered once again from a slow start as the Impact took the lead in the 5th minute. Saphir Taider got the ball down to the end line, and then picked Ignacio Piatti out at the top of the box. A shot from the Argentine was blocked by Opare but went right to a wide open Mancosu, who swiveled and smashed the ball past David Ousted for the 1-0 advantage.
Moments later, United dodged disaster, as the Impact were the width of the post away from a two-goal cushion. Alejandro Silva got down the right flank, skipping around Joseph Mora and Steven Birnbaum in the box. Silva beat Ousted with a well-placed shot, but it hit off the upright, sparing United.
United recovered from their awful start to find their footing in the game, and dominated the chances the rest of the half. In the 10th minute, a cross from Oniel Fisher deflected through the box, falling to Luciano Acosta at the far post. Acosta went for a first-time strike, but grazed the woodwork as he tried to lace a shot past Evan Bush.
After a 15th minute Rooney free kick was nodded wide by Birnbaum, a second Rooney service caused trouble three minutes later. The ball eventually fell to Zoltan Stieber, who served the ball back into the box. His cross found Acosta, who had a volley that was excellently saved by Bush. There was a follow-up attempt for Rooney, but his shot could not find its way through traffic in front of goal.
20 minutes in, and United hit the woodwork again. Stieber sent a free kick into the box from the right flank, without directly finding a teammate. The ball got knocked down and fell to Canouse. A high bounce forced a high shot from Canouse, who beat Bush but hit the crossbar from 11 yards out.
Yamil Asad, who scored a spectacular goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps in July, tried an audacious half-volley in the 22nd minute on a ball bouncing 25 yards out from goal. His effort was on target, but Bush was equal to the moment, and flew through the air to push the shot out for a corner kick.
The woodwork came back to United’s aid in the 31st minute, as a rare chance for the Impact was carved out by Taider. Cutting around Stieber, Taider worked himself free outside of the box, then sent a laser towards goal. Ousted was beat, but saved as the ball cannoned off the crossbar.
United’s unlucky streak in front of goal continued with their last chance of the half, from a Rooney free kick in the 38th minute. Rooney went for goal from 25 yards, curling a shot over the wall that left Bush without a chance to make a save. But instead of rippling the netting, Rooney’s effort smacked right off the face of the upright, denying United an equalizer.
United fired off 13 shots in the first half, holding onto 53% possession. The chances kept falling their way after halftime, as another Rooney free kick from the wing bounced through the box, only kept out from an intervention from Bush on the line in the 49th minute.
Asad mis-hit a shot in the 55th minute after a feed from Joseph Mora, and then 10 minutes later, Rooney’s shot was deflected by Rod Fanni at the top of the box. The shot was still on target though, and Bush did well to push the ball around the post as it inched towards the top corner.
After all those chances, United finally broke through in the 70th minute. Fisher chased down a ball in the Montreal half, keeping possession (arguably with help from his left hand) for United while waiting for support. United strung a couple of more passes together, before Moreno sprayed the ball to the left for Acosta in the box. Acosta settled, and then centered the ball for Asad, who won the race to the ball to knock it past Bush.
Montreal quickly sprung back into action, and after Piatti’s shot forced Ousted into a 76th minute save, the woodwork came up yet again. In the 76th minute, thanks to the woodwork and a block from Birnbaum. A free kick from the left from Taider skipped through the box, beat Ousted, but hit off the upright. The ball then fell to Ken Krolicki, who from the ground tried to stab the ball into the empty net, but Birnbaum was there to block his shot on the line.
Both sides may have run out of gas late, with the chances drying up. Acosta went for the acrobatic late on, as the midfielder tried a bicycle kick in the 87th minute, but his effort from no angle looped onto the roof of the net. Anthony Jackson-Hamel created a chance for the Impact in the dying embers of the 90 minutes, as the substitute played the ball back for Silva. Silva then found Taider in the box, but a timely slide from Opare blocked the shot, ensuring a point for each team.
United, with 18 points from 19 games, return to Audi Field in eight days, when they host Orlando City.