First place in the Eastern Conference and the best home record in MLS belong to D.C. United. And deservedly so.
Smarting from a rivalry defeat to New York last Sunday, D.C. dominated the visiting Impact almost from the opening whistle on Saturday night, cruising to a comprehensive 3-0 victory in front of 18,302 fans at RFK Stadium, the largest home crowd of the season in the nation’s capital.
Chris Pontius, Robbie Russell and Hamdi Salihi provided the goals for United (10-5-3), sealing a victory that extended their home winning streak to five games and overall home record to 7-1-2. The Impact (5-10-3) struggled to create anything going forward, as Sanna Nyassi recorded their lone shot on goal in the 11th minute.
Goalkeeper Evan Bush and right back Calum Mallace made their MLS debuts for Montreal manager Jesse Marsch, while recent Designated Player signing Marco Di Viao started the match on the bench.
Behind the attack-minded lineup fielded by United manager Ben Olsen, which was composed of Maicon Santos and Dwayne De Rosario up top supported by Branko Boskovic, Andy Najar and Pontius, D.C. had no trouble creating goal-scoring opportunities against Montreal’s new-look defense.
Although it was the Nyassi who was on the end of the game’s first chance, which Bill Hamid went low to save, D.C. spent most of the first half putting Bush, who replaced Jamaican Donovan Ricketts, and the Montreal backline under pressure.
Santos was the first to truly test Bush, cranking a left-footed shot destined for the top corner that the former Akron ‘keeper dove to paw out for a corner kick in the 21st minute. Five minutes later, Bush’s own teammate nearly put one past him, as Mallace’s attempted clearance of De Rosario’s through ball caromed off the inside of the post.
United kept Montreal camped in their own half for the next 20 minutes, negating the creative influence of Brazilian midfielder Felipe, but couldn’t break down Marsch’s side despite near misses by Boskovic and Pontius.
But just as it appeared the Impact would get to halftime without conceding, Pontius popped up to end the deadlock.
After picking the ball up inside the Impact half, United’s leading scorer made a beeline toward goal, isolating and turning MLS Mallace before thumping a left-footed shot inside the back post for his ninth goal of the season.
Marsch brought Di Viao on for Felipe to start the second half, but before Montreal could mount a second-half comeback, Boskovic combined with Russell to make the scoreline 2-0.
After a foul against Najar just outside the box, Boskovic whipped in a left-footed cross toward the penalty area that the United right back headed past a helpless Bush. It was Boskovic’s fourth assist in five games, and came just days after the Montenegrin put pen to paper on a new deal with the club.
The home side put it in cruise control from that point on, dominating possession and allowing Davy Arnaud a single opportunity that center back Dejan Jakovic was able to block with a diving challenge.
Olsen replaced Boskovic, De Rosario and Santos in the second half with Lewis Neal, Nick DeLeon and Salihi. DeLeon and Salihi combined with Pontius on D.C.’s final tally, with the Albanian smashing DeLeon’s rebound home for this fifth goal of the season.
The Impact are back in action on Wednesday when Sporting KC visit Stade Saputo with both sides looking to rebound from recent defeats. D.C. are out of action until July 15, when they visit the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)