D.C. United needed a win to be sure of a spot in the MLS is Back Tournament’s knockout rounds, but a mostly tepid performance saw them eliminated thanks to a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact. A deflected first half goal from Saphir Taider ended up being the winner, while United looked short of ideas for most of the 90 minutes.
Owing to some mix of injuries and fatigue — this being United’s third game in eight days — Ben Olsen sent out a surprising lineup. While the 4231 formation was retained, defensive midfielder Felipe replaced the reportedly injured Edison Flores in the central attacking midfield role. Junior Moreno, back from suspension, filled Felipe’s vacated role alongside Russell Canouse, while Ulises Segura started as a forward.
Despite the unfamiliar line-up, United showed real energy in dictating the early terms. A flowing 5th minute move carved Montreal open, but Julian Gressel’s layoff was wastefully lifted over the bar by Segura.
Montreal grew into the game after the opening 10 minutes, though they had little to show for it after long spells of possession. However, a 29th minute cross from the right by Zachary Brault-Guillard should have been an easy clearance for Frederic Brillant, who took his eye off the ball and sliced his clearance out for a corner.
That minor mistake would be compounded moments later, as the Impact eventually turned the corner kick into a 31st minute goal. The Impact took the corner short, and with United deep in the box expecting a normal service, there was plenty of time for Bojan Krkic to roll a pass to Saphir Taider. The Algerian had a huge swath of free space to set himself up to go to goal from nearly 30 yards. Unfortunately for DCU, Brillant’s block attempt didn’t get enough contact on the ball, only serving to deflect it past Hamid.
Soon thereafter, United could count themselves lucky that referee Alex Chilowicz never got a call for a VAR check, as Felipe’s lunging tackle on Victor Wanyama could have possibly resulted in a red card. Chilowicz was hearing it from both teams, as just a few minutes later, Samuel Piette appeared to bear-hug Steven Birnbaum inside the box on a corner, only for Chilowicz to whistle for a foul going the other way.
Olsen, sensing that his starters were not having a good night, made an eye-catching sub early in the second half, bringing Gressel off for homegrown midfielder Kevin Paredes in the 52nd minute. United seemed to step their game up after seeing a big name removed from play, with Segura and Paredes forcing tricky saves out of Clément Diop within the next 5 minutes.
The Black-and-Red’s boost in tempo was short-lived, with Romell Quioto floating a header over the bar in the 61st minute after a long spell of Montreal possession had allowed the Impact to regain their footing.
United was looking more lively, but were extremely fortunate to stay just a goal down, as they fell asleep on a simple throw-in in the 68th minute. Maxi Urruti was allowed to collect the ball, turn inside the box, and shoot from close range, but slapped his shot off the inside of the post.
Olsen brought in more attacking subs in the 69th minute, adding Federico Higuain and Ola Kamara to the mix and shifting into a 433. When that didn’t jar something loose, there were more moves, with Griffin Yow making his first appearance of 2020. Later, United coaches could be heard telling Birnbaum to take up a somewhat familiar role as a target striker whenever United was in possession.
None of it worked. Despite United ending up with double the shot attempts of Montreal, they didn’t truly threaten the Impact goal in the final 20 minutes, meekly crashing out of the MLS is Back Tournament on 2 points. That leaves a next game a complete unknown, as the coronavirus could still prevent MLS from having anything resembling a regular season in 2020.
Highlights will be added when they are made available.
MLS is Back Tournament - Group C
Montreal Impact 1 (Taider 31)
D.C. United 0
Impact (433): Clément Diop; Zachary Brault-Guillard (Shamit Shome 86), Rod Fanni, Luis Binks, Jorge Corrales; Samuel Piette, Victor Wanyama, Saphir Taider; Maximiliano Urruti (Orji Okwonkwo 69), Romell Quioto (Anthony Jackson-Hamel 91+), Bojan Krkic
DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem (Federico Higuain 69), Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum (C), Joseph Mora; Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno (Oniel Fisher 83); Julian Gressel (Kevin Paredes 52), Felipe Martins, Yamil Asad (Ola Kamara 69); Ulises Segura (Griffin Yow 83)
Impact - Urruti 42, Quioto 91+, Jackson-Hamel 94+
DCU - Felipe 35, Higuain 92+