It could be argued in some ways DC United was more competitive than its last visit to Montreal which ended in a 1-0 Black and Red victory. With a 2-0 defeat to the Impact on Saturday that argument lacks real conviction after United paid for early mistakes and never recovered.
Just four minutes into the match Taylor Kemp was whistled for a hand ball after trying to defend a ball that took an awkward bounce on the Montreal turf. On the free kick Didier Drogba, who netted 104 goals in 254 appearances with English Premier League side Chelsea, showed his class with a curving free kick from 30 yards that sizzled part United goalkeeper Bill Hamid who was only able to get a hand on it.
Then in the 11th minute United midfielder Markus Halsti with his back to a defender was trying to keep possession, but then passed the ball aimlessly toward the United end and it triggered a Montreal attack. Drogba pounced on the loose ball and beat United defender Steve Birnbaum and chipped it past a charging Hamid from 12 yards.
“We played against a great forward and give the ball away and then we are down two goals,” said head coach Ben Olsen. “Then we chase the game plan goes out the window. We can’t do simple things that professional soccer players do. They have a striker who is pretty damn good and no team will let us off the hook for little mistakes anymore.”
In six games with Montreal, Drogba has scored seven goals and the Impact has collected four wins and two draws. By contrast United is without a win in its last six matches and has not won since a 1-0 victory on August 8 in Montreal when Chris Rolfe scored on his team’s only shot of the game.
- Details, details. United needs to be better in the final third and that is about small details like player movement off the ball and quicker decisions when reaching the critical moment of an attack. On Saturday United did not make it hard enough on Montreal’s back four and had trouble navigating through the Impact’s three-man midfield. To be sure it was better than the last visit to Montreal when United was outshot 26-1 and only had 32 percent of the possession. This time the Impact had a 13-9 shots advantage, but the difference was the home side had seven shots on target and United three. At halftime United substituted Conor Doyle for Alvaro Sabario. In four games now together the partnership between Sabario and Espindola, that was so electric when they played together with Real Salt Lake, has yet to ignite.
- Bad timing. United is slipping as the rest of the Eastern Conference seems to be getting better. The top six teams in each conference make the playoffs and Montreal is currently in sixth place, four points ahead of Orlando City. The Impact is better than a sixth seed. With a 5-2 win Friday on the road against the Red Bulls, Orlando City served notice they are still alive. United’s next opponent New York City FC is five points out of a postseason spot and Saturday won on the road in Vancouver.
- Final word from Ben Olsen: “We have to do some soul searching to find our way out of this. We have to clean up those wounds that we are creating ourselves. If we don’t we’ll continue to take losses. We have to try and get into the playoffs, and when/if we do, (make the playoffs) it’s a reset. We obviously have to make some changes, because something’s not working.”