After watching his opponents control possession for much ofthe club’s last two matches, D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen had very specificinstructions heading into Saturday’s showdown with Montreal.
Keep the ball.
“We weren’t sharp in possession the last two weeks,” thesecond-year coach acknowledged after D.C. toppled the Impact 3-0 at RFK. “That was something that we needed tohave today, and we had it.”
The statistics bear out Olsen’s proclamation. United held more than 60% of possessionover the ninety minutes while completing 85.1% of their passes. Control of the ball led to anoverwhelming advantage in scoring chances as the Black-and-Red created 18attempts on goal compared to just four for Montreal.
In fact, D.C. put more shots on target in second-half injurytime than the Impact mustered all night.
Beyond the competitive – and aesthetic - benefits ofpossession, United’s ownership of the ball had another very intentionaleffect. On a day where field-leveltemperatures peaked in the mid-90’s, possession kept D.C. rested while Montreal– days removed from a mid-week clash with Toronto - were forced to burn whatlittle energy the visitors had left.
“With the weather so hot it is important to have the ball atyour feet,” said Branko Boskovic. “It makes the other team must run, and I think in the second half youcan see how that helped us win.”
Keeping the ball away from Montreal also paid off for United’s backline.
“Their attack just isn’t as good when you have the ball,”noted left back Daniel Woolard. “Whenthey win it they want to go forward because they haven’t had the ball and thenthey tend to turn it over a little more often.”
When Boskovic - who Olsen credited specifically when askedabout United’s improved possession – exited in the 60th minute, an unlikelyreplacement emerged. Despite neverhaving played centrally for D.C., Lewis Neal completed 47 of 51 passes over 30industrious minutes as United killed off any hopes of a Montreal comeback.
“They’ve had a pretty tough schedule of late so they lookedpretty beat and pretty tired,” Neal said afterwards. “But we’ve been in the same positionourselves, so at the end of the day, you have to take advantage it.”
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)