The Montreal Impact came into RFK and checked every box for what a visiting team must do to win a playoff game on the road. They took the fight to D.C. United, despite losing the possession battle, it was the Impact that dictated the terms of the game. As Ben Olsen said after the game, “We were second best from the start tonight so I’ll look at myself and analyze why that was the case.” Montreal executed their game plan to a tee, moving on to the next round after a 4-2 win over D.C. United.
The home side comes out flat to start the match, the visitors waste no time taking advantage of it. They’re dictating the terms and there were a few flashes of life from D.C. United, but nothing substantial. The Impact got a goal off a corner just three minutes into the game from Laurent Ciman, they then sunk back into their half and made it tough for D.C. United to break down.
Even though they were sitting back, Montreal showed why they’re seen as one of the league’s top counter attacking teams. Ignacio Piatti was manipulating the back line as he saw fit, creating and fitting the ball through pockets to his running teammates. While they didn’t score in all of those situations, it was evident that Montreal was able to catch D.C. United off balance in transition.
“You need edge and you need confidence and if one starts to fade a little bit with each guy, you’ll get punished for it.” – D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen
For a team that came into this match on fire on the attacking side, the home side played with little to any fire in the first stanza. It felt as if the Black-and-Red got frustrated by the lack of calls in what was an exceedingly physical half of football. Luciano Acosta was taken down several times in the box, generating no-calls each time. Still, the frustration towards the ref had little to do with ball watching at times on the defensive end. It never looked like the D.C. United team that played with a sense of urgency and fire over the past month or so. A perfect example of why possession is misleading, D.C. United led that category at the half 55.1% to 44.9%, means little if one team has seven shots inside the box and the other has just one. It’s about capitalizing on chances, the home side failed to do so in the first half. That had more to do with the 2-0 deficit than the lack of calls made in their favor, regardless of how glaring the situation.
“It’s about emotions, it’s about managing momentum, it’s about executing in the playoffs. If those three things are intact in the group, along with the concentration, you have a good chance of winning.” -Montreal Coach Mauro Biello
The visitors started the second half much like they started the first, they remained the aggressor. Matteo Mancosu would get his second goal of the night in the 58th minute. The service was provided by Ambroise Oyongo and Matteo displayed tremendous touch and placement on the header, beating Bill Hamid to the near post.
While it was very unlucky to surrender such an early goal, D.C. United never seemed to have recovered from that early shock. There’s been several times this season in which they’ve responded quite well after going down early, but the response never came in this match.
Montreal put a bow on things in the 82nd minute, with D.C. United trying to press and push numbers forward in hopes of scoring, they left themselves vulnerable to easy counters. Bobby Boswell ended up in a 2-on-1 off a missed shot, he delayed it as much as possible, but the Impact took their time and Piatti beat Hamid for the fourth tally of the evening.
Lamar Neagle would score in the 89th minute, a header off a nice service from Patrick Nyarko. Taylor Kemp would follow suit, scoring on a rocket of a shot that from 10 yards outside the box. The keeper had little chance to stop it. While it made things look a little better on the scoreboard, it was a poor showing from a team that came into the postseason rather hot.