After Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, D.C. United will take on the Montreal Impact in the third game of the Walt Disney World Resort Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando, Fla., today at 1 p.m. ET (http://www.dcunited.com/live).
An evenly paced match, United did not fall behind until late in the game. Former Black-and-Red midfielder Bobby Convey netted the first goal in the 74th minute, bending the ball into the upper 90, just out of the reach of United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra. Soony Saad relieved Paulo Nagamura in the 75th minute, scoring just six minutes later. Saad received a pass from Peterson Joseph on a diagonal run behind the United back line, dribbled at Dykstra and finished low into the far corner.
“Out of all the teams in the MLS, I feel like [Sporting Kansas City] gave us the most trouble last year,” said United central defender Dejan Jakovic. “But yesterday, I thought we had a great first half. There were definitely spells in the game where we kept the ball and had some chances and got out of tough situations where we would normally just kind of clear the ball, but we were able to get out of them and switch to the other side.”
Montreal, led by new Head Coach Marco Shällibaum, has recorded two wins in as many games at the Orlando tournament. The Impact proved victorious over North American Soccer League champion Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday afternoon, by a score of 4-1. And Montreal didn’t waste any time—Felipe Martins put the first goal on the scoreboard just two minutes into the first half. Fifteen minutes later, Impact Designated Player Marco Di Vaio converted a penalty kick after Felipe was taken down in the box. Rowdies defender Takuya Yamada interrupted Montreal’s scoring surge, putting away a penalty kick in the 38th minute. It only took Di Vaio three minutes to respond, finishing a cross from former Bologna F.C. teammate Andrea Pisanu on a one-time strike. The last Impact goal came from Sanna Nyassi after he connected with newly acquired Andrés Romero, on loan from the Brazilian side Clube Náutica Capibaribe.
“Montreal is a great team,” Jakovic said. “I know that when we played them in the first half of the season, we beat them 3-0, but they’ve gotten a lot better. They’ve made a lot of changes, and they definitely have some great players. They brought in [Alessandro] Nesta, Di Vaio. So, it’s definitely going to be a good test for us tomorrow.”
While Montreal posted 12 wins in its inaugural season in Major League Soccer, the club missed out on the playoffs. In the last two months of the 2012 season, Montreal struggled, tallying only three goals in six games and finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference. Conceding the second most goals against (51) in the East, Montreal had the best of D.C. on one of three occasions. Forcing a 1-1 draw on April 18, 2012, United would defeat the Impact 2-0 on its next outing on June 30, 2012, with goals coming from MLS Best XI midfielder/forward Chris Pontius, veteran defender Robbie Russell and Hamdi Salihi. Montreal found its revenge on August 15, 2012, beating United 3-0 with Impact MVP Patrice Bernier recording a brace and assisting on the other goal.
“Patrice is a very technical player,” Canadian international Jakovic said, complimenting his fellow countryman. “He is very good on the ball, and his decision-making in on point.”
Above all, Jakovic noted United is determined to execute the small elements that Head Coach Ben Olsen has laid out for improvement ahead of the season opener at Houston.
“Benny wants to see us play out of the back more,” Jakovic explained. “I feel like a lot of the time last year we were playing longer balls and now we’re doing possession and a few drills where we were able to move it from side-to-side and get it around the back. And – while the other team has the ball – sliding from left to right and defending and forcing them to play one way, stuff like that.”