Out to avoid their first four-match losing streak in over two years, D.C. United seek a critical three points at the expense of the Montreal Impact as the Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls square off Saturday night.
D.C. (10-10-9) still occupy the fifth slot heading into this weekend’s play, but three consecutive losses have completely removed any margin of error they enjoyed. They are two points better than seventh-place Montreal (11-4-14), and a loss in this contest coupled with a Toronto FC victory would drop the Black-and-Red out of the top seven.
Ben Olsen’s team is coming off a 3-1 loss at Philadelphia last Saturday in which they were completely out of sorts at the start and conceded twice in the first 16 minutes and a third before halftime. D.C. sorely missed suspended striker Wayne Rooney, with Ola Kamara taking only one shot in his place, and the lone bright spot was Luciano Acosta ending a goalless drought dating to June 10 with his consolation marker on 56 minutes.
“When the losses start to pile up, it becomes emotional,” Olsen told The Washington Post. “We have to, first and foremost, stay together right now. It’s an easy time to point fingers. I don’t think our group is at that stage. They are able to dig out of this.”
Rooney is available for this game, which will help, but the common thread in all three defeats has been conceding early. United have conceded the first goal in all three matches inside the opening 18 minutes, with two of the opening goals coming in the first six after Kacper Przybylko staked Philadelphia to a 1-0 advantage in the fifth minute.
D.C. are winless in their last four road matches (0-1-3) and have not dropped four straight overall since a seven-game skid from June 24-July 29, 2017.
Montreal maintained its tenuous hold on the final playoff spot in the East with a 2-1 home victory over Vancouver on Wednesday night for just its second win in 10 matches (2-1-7) and first in two since Wilmer Cabrera took over for the fired Remi Garde.
The match swung in the Impact’s favor in the 26th minute when Evan Bush saved a penalty attempt on a re-take by Yordy Reyna to prevent a 2-0 Whitecaps lead.
The Impact pulled even on an own goal in the 35th minute, and Maxi Urruti scored two minutes later, volleying home a cross by Bacary Sagna. It was Urruti’s first goal at Stade Saputo, and the Argentine striker had arguably his best game of the season with four shots on frame and six overall.
Bush finished with six saves and plenty of grateful teammates for his work.
“I think his saves from the spot kept us alive,” midfielder Saphir Taider told the club’s official website of Bush’s heroics. “If we conceded that second goal, the game could’ve gone differently. His saves gave us a boost of confidence, and we were able to go and score those two goals. It was definitely a turning point for us.”
The Impact had their two Finland internationals – defender Jukka Ritala and midfielder Lassi Lappalainen – recalled to the national team for their upcoming European qualifiers during next week’s international window. Daniel Lovitz (U.S.) and Samuel Piette (Canada) were also picked to represent their countries, with Piette likely to see action in Canada’s Nations League matches.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in Washington in April in a listless match that saw the Impact register the only shot on target of the 17 taken by both sides. Montreal is unbeaten in its last four at home (2-2-0) versus United.
(Evan Bush photo courtesy Kevin Sousa/USA TODAY Sports)