Watch D.C. United and the Montreal Impact face off at 7:30 p.m. on CSN.
The clock is ticking. Coming out of the international break for the Chivas of Guadalajara game, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen said he wanted to create momentum and find the right lineup for the U.S. Open Cup semifinal August 7th in Chicago.
The first game back from that break produced a 4-1 loss to Chicago in league play and cause for concern. Luis Silva’s goal in that game also triggered optimism. It is optimism that carried over with another Silva goal in last week’s 2-1 loss to New England and finally promising play on offense ahead of Saturday’s home game against Montreal.
“I thought the energy was good in the first half”, Olsen said about last week’s game against the revolution. We had an extremely bright start and for a change dictated the run of play and grabbed a lead. We had trouble later in the game, it was still a loss, but I was encouraged.”
Against the Revolution the Black and Red had 14 attempts on goal. In its previous two matches, losses to the Fire and Rapids, United combined for 14 attempts on goal. Before Silva’s goal in the eighth minute against the Revolution, United had already registered four shots and earned one corner kick.
United have used 19 different players in its front six this season and last week were again dealing with absence of midfielder Chris Pontius because of a hamstring injury. Pontius struggled this week to return to full training and is in doubt for Saturday. Dwayne De Rosario returned from a hip flexor injury to play 24 minutes against the Revolution.
A groin injury to Carlos Ruiz and a foot ailment to Casey Townsend also prevented them from being attacking options last week and are in doubt for this week. Regardless of the injuries Silva, in just two games, has clearly earned a spot in the first eleven. Playing just below the striker, Silva has helped the offense flow and of course has scored goals.
“It’s refreshing for me to see a player sense that he’s there and wants the ball.” De Rosario noted. “I get giddy when players get that ball and can read that. You see the shot from outside the box. He had the opportunity to play it wide, and I told him since he got here: ‘Stop looking to pass the ball; you’ve come here to score goals.”
Two other players are coming off their United debuts. Conor Doyle, on loan from England’s Derby County started at forward against the Revolution and showed promise with his ability to play the role of a target and hold the ball. Another former U.S. youth international, Jared Jeffrey, started in the center of midfield with Perry Kitchen dealing with a hip injury.
“For me, those three key additions for the team are dangerous,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps of Silva, Doyle and Jeffery. “When you play younger players, you can build a good core and then you’ve got to let them get games and results aren’t always predictable when you have a group that’s coming together.”
United will need to come together against Montreal. The Impact has made a dramatic transformation and gone from being on the sideline in last year’s post season to being in contention for the Eastern Conference title.
The Impact needs a positive result against United to reestablish itself as an elite team in MLS. The month of July was not kind to the Impact. Against arch rival Toronto FC, Montreal scrambled in a 3-3 draw. Then the goal scoring dried up. The Impact managed only two goals and five points from the final four matches of the month.
Marco Di Vaio has scored more goals, 11, than United has as a team. The former Serie A player and Italian international, played for Italy at Euro 2004, was a MLS All-Star along with midfielder Patrice Bernier. From his holding role deep in the midfield Bernier has been effective distributing the ball to wide options Justin Mapp and Sanna Nyassi and through the middle to Brazilian Felipe Martins.