To say things didn’t go D.C. United’s way in Saturday’s 3-0defeat at Montreal would be a gross understatement. Officiating decisions, which have haunted the Black-and-Redof late, benefitted the hosts – as did timely finishing and a fortuitous bounceof the ball.
After controlling - but not dominating - the opening half, United deserved more than the 1-0deficit that awaited them after 45 minutes. D.C. attempted seven shots in the opening stanza, whileMontreal mustered just one. Butthe Impact’s lone effort – a beautiful curler from Designated Player Marco DiVaio – found the back of the net very much against the run of play.
“It’s disappointing when you do everything right and thenyou take your mind out of the game for a split second and they punish you,”said Dwayne De Rosario. “To befair that’s been a lot of our games of late. We’ve lost that focus for a split second and get punished.”
De Rosario himself was limited to the second half, after apre-match issue in his calf made D.C.’s coaching staff uneasy about the34-year-old’s availability.
“We weren’t sure whether or not it was the right thing to doto push him ninety minutes,” Ben Olsen said afterwards. “You can’t play these guys every gamewith two days rest in-between.
Adding to D.C.’s difficulty was a similar concern forplaymaking midfielder Chris Pontius. The Californian had played eighty or more minutes in nine straightmatches and, with a showdown against New York looming in four days time, thedecision was made to try and keep the winger fresh.
Without the club’s top two playmakers, D.C. was still verymuch in contention as the second half began. That changed quickly as United were dealt their second doseof misfortune in the 50th minute. Emiliano Dudar and Collen Warner crossed paths in the penalty area, andreferee Matthew Foerster awarded Montreal a penalty kick. Patrice Bernier converted, doubling the Impact’s lead.
“That was not a penalty,” Dudar said afterwards. “From my point of view that was not apenalty. We have had a bad stretchwhere referee decisions are going against us.”
Despite the demoralizing blow, Olsen took an aggressiveapproach to the contests' final half-hour. He inserted Pontius, De Rosario and Branko Boskovic in hopesof seeing his side salvage a result. With their coach offering no sign of surrender, D.C.’s players pressedon.
And in the 82nd minute, the Black-and-Red seemingly foundtheir lifeline. Lewis Neal pouncedon a loose ball and hammered it into the top of Montreal’s net. D.C.’s joy was short-lived, however as thegoal was disallowed after Pontius was whistled for a foul.
Replays showed Impact defenderAlessandro Nesta shoving the United attacker into goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
“That’s the game of soccer,” Pontius said from United’sdejected locker room. “It is whatit is. We’ve had games where wewere outplayed, but put the ball away… From there, you start throwing numbersforward frantically and it becomes wide open.”