For the first time since the Montreal Impact joined Major League Soccer back in 2012, D.C. United will meet them in the MLS playoffs. Both teams had the chance to host this game against each other, but Montreal lost 3-0 to the New England Revolution on Decision Day, meaning United kept the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference despite a 4-2 setback against Orlando City SC. That means Thursday’s knockout round game will take place at RFK Stadium.
United and the Impact faced off two times this season, with the games coming in the stretch of 30 days. Both games ended 1-1, and in both games, the home teams probably should have come away with a win. We will take a look back at those two games, re-living the highs and lows of two points from two games.
July 31: D.C. United 1-1 Montreal Impact
First, re-read our recap of the game, and head over to Mount Royal Soccer to read their perspective.
D.C. United were finally home to end the month of July, having spent the previous four games on the road. Decent displays in draws against Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew SC were outweighed by poor performances and heavy losses to the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC. At that point of the season, United was sitting in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 5-8-7, scoring just 19 times in those 20 games.
But the club had acquired Patrick Mullins, Lloyd Sam, and Kennedy Igboananike, in the process of changing formations and trading away Fabian Espindola. United ended up scoring 34 in their final 14 games, including this draw against the Impact. In this game though, a late goal conceded to a 10 man Impact extended United’s winless streak to five games.
In his first start for United, Mullins scored early on to give United the lead against the Quebecois side. It was Mullins’ first goal for the Black-and-Red, and the assist came from his college teammate, Taylor Kemp. Kemp curled in a left-footed cross, and Mullins beat center back Victor Cabrera in the air to bounce a header past Evan Bush in goal.
United were on top for most of the game, but were unable to ever find a second goal. Several chances went missing, and Luciano Acosta was denied a penalty halfway through the second half. Alvaro Saborio almost netted the insurance goal late on, but his effort smashed off the post.
Didier Drogba was sent off in the 81st minute for kneeing Marcelo Sarvas while he was on the ground in the aftermath of a foul. Even so, the missed chances were emblematic of United’s problems in the first half of the season, and Hernan Bernardello made United pay late.
Moments after Saborio hit the woodwork, the Impact had a corner at the other end. The corner itself was of little danger, but the ball popped out to Bernardello, and the midfielder lashed a shot that Bill Hamid saw too late to react to. The 1-1 result left United 8th in the Eastern Conference, with 13 games to play.
August 24: Montreal Impact 1-1 D.C. United
Again, check out our recap of the game, and Mount Royal Soccer’s as well.
This would be the last time that D.C. United would not score multiple goals in game to end the 2016 regular season. In the midst of three games in seven days - and four in twelve - Ben Olsen went with a heavily changed starting eleven just days after a rain-soaked 2-2 draw at home against the New York Red Bulls.
Patrick Nyarko, one of the few holdovers from the draw against NYRB, was tripped in the box by Donny Toia to earn a penalty for United in the 36th minute. Lamar Neagle took the honors from the spot, and beat Evan Bush by sending the keeper the wrong way. That would begin a run of six goals in nine games for Neagle, who would end up as United’s leading goal scorer on the year with nine goals.
United were on the back foot for most of the rest of the game, relying on Hamid’s heroics in goal to keep Montreal at bay. Ignacio Piatti was denied early on, and Johan Venegas met the same fate 10 minutes into the second half. Drogba was denied twice by Hamid in the second half, and Kofi Opare sent a clearance off of his own woodwork as United desperately held on to their one goal lead.
That was all undone though in the 77th minute, as United failed to properly clear out a corner kick (sense a theme?). A turnover deep in United’s half allowed Montreal to continue to apply pressure, and Marco Donadel’s curling cross was headed in at the far post by Hassoun Camara.
Piatti dragged a shot just wide as Montreal pushed for a win, and then Matteo Mancosu fizzed in a shot that barely missed. Opare was sent off late for a studs-up challenge on Donadel, but United were able to see out the draw, keeping United in the sixth position that they entered the game in.