D.C. United came into the 2016 MLS Playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league. Instead of continuing that run, United were blown out Thursday night, losing 4-2 to the Montreal Impact at RFK Stadium. Montreal took the lead in the 4th minute through Laurent Ciman, with Matteo Mancosu doubling the advantage just before the end of the first half.
Mancosu added a third 15 minutes in the second half, before Ignacio Piatti scored on the counterattack late to add to United’s misery. Lamar Neagle and Taylor Kemp provided two late goals for the home side, but by then the outcome had long been determined.
Ben Olsen went back to the starting eleven that turned around United’s season. Sean Franklin wasn’t in the game day 18, allowing Nick DeLeon to keep his spot at right back. Marcelo Sarvas was on the bench, meaning that Jared Jeffrey and Rob Vincent started with Luciano Acosta in midfield.
United were behind the eight ball almost immediately, as a poor turnover from Lloyd Sam went straight to Ignacio Piatti in the opening seconds. Piatti made his way towards goal before quickly testing Bill Hamid in goal, but Piatti’s effort was right at the goalkeeper.
Four minutes in though, and United were facing their first home deficit since an August game against the New York Red Bulls. Bobby Boswell, under no pressure, played a cross out for a corner for the Impact. Marco Donadel curled it in, and after it skipped off DeLeon’s head, and Ciman lost his marker, Vincent. Ciman hit the half volley from close range, leaving Hamid no chance as Montreal lead 1-0.
Sam collected a free kick just outside the box in the 10th minute, but his shot from the top of the box was deflected out for a corner. Sam took the resulting corner, but it disappointed, curling out of bounds before anyone could make a play on it.
Mancosu went close in the 11th minute, firing just over the bar. Piatti beat Nick DeLeon on the left, and then clipped a pass into the box for the Italian striker. Mancosu did well to chest the ball down for himself, but his pivoting shot as it zipped over the goal.
DeLeon was able to get around Ciman in the 17th minute, only for Donadel to clear out the cross from the right back. DeLeon’s bigger contribution came five minutes later though, when his defensive play kept United within a goal. A header at midfield from Donadel played Mancosu through on goal, with D.C. pushed up high. DeLeon quickly raced back to catch up with Mancosu to force the shot in the box wide.
Piatti had a shot blocked in the 32nd minute, and Hamid did just enough to push Hassoun Camara’s cross in front of goal wide in the 37th minute as Montreal continued to dictate the terms.
Those issues were compounded before United could regroup at halftime, as Mancosu struck for his first goal in the 43rd minute. The Black-and-Red made a meal of a clearance from their own end, and Ambroise Oyongo was able to keep the ball alive at midfield. Oyongo quickly found Piatti, who lifted a cross into the box from the left. Mancosu timed his run perfectly, and was all alone in front of goal to poke home.
Olsen brought Marcelo on for Jeffrey to start the second half, but that did little in the way of improving United’s slim odds of coming back from a two goal disadvantage. Taylor Kemp’s cross to the far post did find DeLeon in the 49th minute, but his powerful volley dipped beyond the goal.
Montreal, who had spent much of the first half with the single goal milking away as much time as possible, was content to sit back and absorb the pressure from United early on. United struggled to generate any sort of break through, leaving themselves vulnerable at the back.
And the game was essentially decided when Mancosu scored again in the 58th minute, giving Montreal a three goal lead. A cross-field pass missed it’s intended target, Piatti, but found Oyongo out wide. Oyongo had time to whip in a left footed cross, and Mancosu lost Steve Birnbaum to head in at the near post for his second goal on the night.
Olsen tried to change his side’s fortunes, bringing on Lamar Nealge and Julian Buescher for Sam and Luciano Acosta. But neither would be able to were able to turn the tide, and United’s risk-taking left openings at the back.
Birnbaum was able to knock down a free kick in the box in the 60th minute, getting a second look but firing over from just inside the box. Vincent - who had come off due to an injury only to be waved back on at a perfect moment - then chased down a long ball and got around Montreal keeper Evan Bush, but could only find the side netting as the midfielder had to quickly fire off a shot.
Piatti was defended well by Kemp on a one-on-one break in United’s half before Buescher finally forced Bush into his first save of the night in the 76th minute. The shot wasn’t goal bound, but Bush made the safe play and pushed the ball out for a corner.
Birnbaum was then twice denied a goal with goal line clearances. The first from a throw-in the 78th minute, as Dominic Oduro did just enough to keep the Impact ahead by three goals. Camara did the same in the 82nd minute, as Birnbaum’s header from a corner had Bush beat only for the Frenchman to preserve a shutout.
The cherry on top was applied in the 83rd minute, as Montreal made United pay on the counter attack. Piatti and Mancosu broke forward with only Boswell left to defend, with Piatti playing over to Mancosu. Mancosu returned the favor in the box, and Piatti was able to pick his spot underneath Hamid for the Impact’s fourth goal on the night.
Neagle provided a brief moment of joy for United in the dying embers of the game, as the team’s leading scorer netted United’s first tally in the 90th minute. With not much to play for by either side, Patrick Nyarko crossed in from the right, and Neagle got into the space to head past Bush.
Kemp had all the time in the world in the third minute of stoppage time, and lashed home a swerving shot that beat Bush to the near post to provide the final 4-2 scoreline.