D.C. United, left for dead in the playoff race weeks ago, nearly pulled it off. However, needing a win and help, they fell at home 3-2 to the Montreal Impact, ending their hopes of making the MLS postseason. Paul Arriola’s return from injury was not enough for the Black-and-Red, who lead 2-1 on goals from Donovan Pines and Ola Kamara before conceding twice in the second half.
Interim coach Chad Ashton, facing a must-win game but dealing without several injured starters, chose a very attack-minded lineup. United moved to a 3412 for the first time in almost two months, playing Edison Flores as a wingback and pressing high from the opening kickoff.
Despite losing Gelmin Rivas to a potentially serious injury after a 1st minute collision with Impact goalkeeper Clément Diop, United jumped all over the visitors from the start. The positive start eventually became an early lead, through an increasingly familiar route. A 9th minute corner kick from Julian Gressel found Donovan Pines open at the back post, and the big homegrown center back did the rest, heading down past Diop for his third goal of the season.
Montreal almost provided an instant reply, with Jorge Corrales blocking Russell Canouse’s attempted clearance. That eventually became a shot from Samuel Piette that Bill Hamid saved, and despite two cracks at the rebound for the Impact, United managed to escape unscathed.
United thought they were going to score again only for the offside flag to intervene, and Montreal took advantage to get level in the 12th minute. It was a mess of a goal to concede, with the group dozing off on an Impact throw-in. Romell Quioto was given room to post up, and his low pass to the back post found Bojan Krkic in acres of space for a tap-in from five yards.
Hamid produced an excellent save to deny Quioto in the 16th minute, while Gressel fired a left-footed effort over after showing an exquisite first touch to shake Rudy Camacho as the teams continued to trade serious looks in a wide-open first half.
United were looking like the more vulnerable team, but they nosed back in front on another corner kick in the 33rd minute. This time, Flores swung the ball in, and Kamara bagged his team-leading fourth goal of the season, heading in from close range.
United had claims for a red card for Quioto immediately after the goal, as the Honduran forward appeared to shove Yamil Asad, but referee Rubiel Vazquez settled for a yellow card and did not consult the VAR monitor.
The Black-and-Red were lucky to get into halftime with their lead, as a slip from Canouse in the second minute of stoppage time gave Montreal two great looks. First, Gressel barely kept Anthony Jackson-Hamel from getting a shot off, and seconds later Quioto fired a 19-yarder off the crossbar.
United very nearly started the second half with another quick strike, but a counter manufactured by Junior Moreno saw Kamara’s pass to Erik Sorga clipped an Impact defender’s heel, eliminating what would have otherwise been a glorious scoring chance. They carved out another in the 51st minute, but Gressel’s near-post rocket was met by strong hands from Diop.
D.C. got a boost in the 69th minute, with Paul Arriola making his return from a torn ACL suffered in the preseason. With his first touch after entering the game, Arriola nearly added to the moment, only for an Impact block to deny a dramatic goal after Flores picked him out.
Corners were the story of the game, but unfortunately for United, they ended up conceding rather than scoring from one in the 74th minute. Quioto’s delivery to the far post found Victor Wanyama, who muscled away from all markers to power a header past Hamid.
Arriola curled a bid just over the bar in the 80th minute as United pushed for an equalizer, but United’s desperation eventually saw them caught out. A surreal sequence that saw play continue with two balls on the field and an apparent foul on Montreal go uncalled ended with the Impact streaking upfield. Substitutes Mason Toye and Mustafa Kizza did the hard work, with Quioto sprinting in to finish from point-blank range in the 88th minute.
United threw everything forward in search of a miracle, and Samuel Piette was sent off for a bad tackle on Arriola, but the third from the Impact was ultimately too much to overcome. The loss means United’s late push to sneak into the playoffs has come up just short. They conclude the 2020 season in 13th place with a record of 5W-6D-12L and 21 points.
DCU (3412): Bill Hamid; Russell Canouse, Frederic Brillant (C), Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Moses Nyeman (Paul Arriola 69), Junior Moreno, Edison Flores; Yamil Asad; Erik Sorga (Yordy Reyna 77), Gelmin Rivas (Ola Kamara 5)
Montreal (433): Clément Diop; Zachary Brault-Guillard, Rod Fanni, Rudy Camacho, Jorge Corrales (Luis Binks 82); Samuel Piette (C), Victor Wanyama, Amar Sejdic (Mustafa Kizza 71); Romell Quioto (Emmanuel Maciel 93+), Bojan Krkic (Shamit Shome 93+), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Mason Toye 71)
DCU - None
Montreal - Quioto 34, Sejdic 42, Piette 91+ (red)