WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 – D.C. United can’t get the monkey of its back.
Fans have waited a long time for United to win back-to-back games. Wednesday night game at RFK Stadium against the struggling expansion Montreal Impact seemed the ideal moment for the D.C. outfit to earn its first consecutive wins since June 2009. After all, Montreal had gone winless in five road games and United was coming off a 2-1 road win at the weekend over New England.
In the end, United had to settle for a 1-1 tie and will have to wait for another day to win two games in a row. On the positive side, the tie extended United’s unbeaten streak to five games, but coach Ben Olsen felt it was a lost opportunity before the 10,135 fans on hand.
“It’s a disappointing tie for sure, but they’re a good team,” Olsen said. “We watched a lot of film and they’re a tough team. We knew they’d come in here a little desperate and with a real sense of urgency and fight about them.”
Montreal Controled the Early Part of the Game
Montreal certainly came looking hungry for results and dominated the early part of the game but wasted a number of their chances.
The Impact came close to scoring in the 22nd minute when Justin Mapp set up Danny Arnaud with a fine pass in the 18-yard box, but the Impact captain fired the shot over the bar. Big Italian striker Bernardo Corradi starting causing problems for the United backline as he began to win the ball on his head beating out United defenders Robbie Russell and Brandon McDonald.
United was trying to counter-attack with runs on the right flank from Andy Najar playing in his first game after missing four games, partly due to Olympic qualifying duty with Honduras. And Najar came close in the 32nd minute when he connected with a pass from Dwayne De Rosario but he shot too high. De Rosario then sailed through the Impact’s defense with a fine dribble but shot over the bar.
Chris Pontius then had a shot go wide. Pontius was making his first start after four games on the bench following his impressive game-winning goal against the New England Revolution at the weekend.
United came out strong in the opening minutes of the second half but too many of the passes from the flanks were behind the play. In the 49th minute De Rosario was one-on-one with goalie Donovan Ricketts, but the Impact keeper tackled the ball away with his feet to stop a certain goal.
Coach Olsen Rallied the Team
Three minutes later De Rosario againonly had Ricketts to beat but allowed the goalie to get his hand on the ball and block the move. Whatever coach Ben Olsen had said to the team in the locker room, United certainly looked livelier after the break.
Montreal then got back into the game with Justin Mapp making some fine runs at the United goal and Corradi doing well to hold the ball with his back to the goal.
Olsen made his first move on the hour-mark replacing designated player Branko Boskovic, who was making only his second start of the season, with Maicon Santos the team’s leading goal scorer.
Corradi came close to giving the Impact the lead in the 68th minute but the big Italian’s shot went wide after he connected with a brilliant pass from Arnaud. Less than a minute later the well-traveled Corradi, who has played 13 times for Italy, made sure he didn’t miss this time and headed in an excellent cross from substitute Lamar Neagle.
“Obviously we have to do better with our defending in the box, but I’ll have to look at it again,” said Olsen about giving up the goal.
Santos Tied the Game, Saving D.C. United
Santos tied the game with a fine strike four minutes later, firing a low shot from outside the 18-yard box beating the out-stretched Ricketts for his fourth goal of the campaign. Perry Kitchen was credited with the assist.
“He’s been great,” said Olsen about Santos. “He’s a handful up there, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. We’re trying to get him to face goal more right now; we know he hits a stinger. He was great when he came on.”
United now sensed blood in the water and took the game to Montreal as they searched for the game-winner.
English midfielder Lewis Neal made his league debut late in the game and immediately sent in a corner that Santos headed too high.
Both teams had chances to win the game in the last ten minutes: Chris Korb for United and Arnaud for Montreal.
United thought they had won in the last minute of regulation when Santos tapped home a pass from De Rosario, but the goal was called offside.
“They came with the right energy, and we didn’t,” Olsen said.
Up next for United is the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at RFK at 6 p.m.
Note: In the 12th minute of last night’s game, fans remembered devoted fan Chico Solares with a moment of silence, followed by chanting his name and the waving of banner. Solares, who died recently at the age of 53, was an organizer of United’s leading fan club The Screaming Eagles.
For over 20 years John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
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