The buzz about D.C. United’s 6-4 win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday has lasted all week. It makes sense for a game that delivered cracking goals and even dramatic saves. The buzz is nice, but now the sobering challenge for United is finding success on the road.
United begins a week of road games in Major League Soccer Saturday in Montreal. On Thursday United will play New York City FC for the first time at Yankees Stadium. Heading into MLS’s 23rd week, the Black and Red is in first place in the Eastern Conference and tops the race for the Supporter’s Shield despite serious struggles away from RFK Stadium.
In eleven road matches United has managed only a 2-7-2 record and has not won since a 1-0 result in late June at Chicago. Of particular concern has been United’s offense on the road, which in eleven matches has only generated six goals and been shutout six times. A team’s mentality might be different on the road, but its results should not be the polar opposite from success at home.
The Montreal Impact is starting to make an impact. On Wednesday the team managed a 1-1 tie at home against the New York Red Bulls and is now unbeaten in its last three matches. Because the Impact this past spring advanced to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, they have only played 20 matches, but still have 28 points and are very much in playoff contention.
- Yes a good start. Don’t stop me if you have heard this before, because you have, but United needs to avoid conceding an early goal against the Impact. In seven matches this season United has given up at least a goal in the first 15 minutes including the recent wins over Philadelphia and Real Salt Lake. There is no other way to say it, but United has to be mentally ready to play.
- Build on the Saborio effect. It is not a coincidence that United has scored nine goals in its two games with Saborio in the lineup. Okay I didn’t see six goals coming in one game, but Saborio is occupying opposing defenders and that is opening up space on offense. Of the nine goals scored over the last two games Saborio only has one, but the opportunities are falling for others especially Nick De Leon. After not scoring in a league match for over a year, De Leon has scored in each of the last two games.
- Muting the Impact. Montreal is on the rise and the fan base has been further energized by the signing of scoring legend Didier Drogba. In 254 appearances with Chelsea Drogba bagged 104 goals, but has not played since late May. Drogba did take part in the Impact’s full practice on Thursday, but it is not clear if he will be in head coach Frank Klopas’ plans for Saturday. Regardless United will have to deal with the speed up top of forward Dominc Oduro and then craft and vision from midfield of Ignacio Piatti. The Impact will be missing its best defender after Laurent Ciman was issued a red card Wednesday against the Red Bulls
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