In what was United’s biggest game of the season thus far, Luciano Acosta scored in the first half on Saturday night, giving D.C. United a halftime lead over the Montreal Impact. The rest of the half though, was dominated by an Impact side that tends to be more reactive, sitting deeper and looking to hit opponents on the counter attack. Instead of the norm, Montreal controlled possession, had a majority of the chances, and were maybe a bit unfortunate to be trailing at the break.
United took advantage of their luck in the second half, scoring four more times in a rampant 5-0 win, as they moved within two points of the Impact for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We rode our luck a little bit,” head coach Ben Olsen told reporters after the game in his press conference. “If [this game] was a boxing match, it was pretty damn even.”
The difference ended up being just how clinical United were in front of the goal. The Black-and-Red tallied a goal on their first five shots on target, while the Impact could only manage four shots on target with 24 shots taken over 90 minutes.
Acosta, after his first half goal, kept up his involvement in the second half, assisting three times as both Wayne Rooney and Paul Arriola netted twice to provide the final score line. Rooney’s first goal came minutes after the restart, and put some distance between the two sides.
“It was big for us to get the second goal so soon after halftime,” Rooney told reporters in the locker room after the game.
The result ended up being exactly what United needed. In the race for the last playoff spot, United came into the game down five points to the Impact, albeit with two games in hand. A loss would have left the Black-and-Red with a mountain to climb, and a tie wouldn’t have been all that favorable either. Instead, United put themselves in a prime position to make the playoffs after missing out last year.
“[It was a] big result for us,” Acosta said through a team-provided translator after the game. “We have a lot of confidence after this game, and we’re in a great position for the playoffs.”
“Today was obviously a massive game for us,” added Arriola, who took his goal tally up to seven. “So it was great to get the win obviously, and to get the result we did, the way we did.”
Despite all the good vibes in the locker room on Saturday night, United also know that there is little time to rest on their laurels. Ground still has to be made up against the Impact, and the Chicago Fire come to town next week in decent form, despite recently being eliminated from playoff contention.
United have yet to face the Fire this season, who they will also play on the final day of the campaign. But if United dwell too long, all the progress made on Saturday night might vanish as quickly as it appeared.
“We need to forgot about this quickly, and move onto Chicago, who is playing at a good level,” Olsen said after the game.
Still, it must be reassuring for Olsen to see United come out and get a result when they needed it the most. There have been a couple of less than stellar performances in the second half of the season, the loss to the Philadelphia Union at home the most prominent, but once again, when United needed to show up at the most critical time, they answered the call.
“There’s a certain moxie about the group,” added Olsen. “I hope they understand now what we need to do over the next month to reach our goal.”