D.C. United travel north of the border for a midweek clash with the Montreal Impact this Wednesday (7:30 PM ET on NewsChannel 8). The teams met just three weeks ago at RFK Stadium when a late strike from Hernan Bernardello canceled out Patrick Mullins’ debut goal for United in a 1-1 draw.
“I think that’s the best we played all year,” said United defender Steve Birnbaum after the first match against Montreal. “Everyone looked after each other, I thought we pressed well as a group, put them on their heels and were on the attack the whole time…a lot of positives from this game.”
The prior meeting with the Impact was the first of four consecutive home matches for the Black-and-Red, who played some of their best soccer of the season during that stretch. They picked up six points during the homestand and moved back into playoff position.
While United’s new offensive signings have breathed life into the offense, the key to the recent improvement has been the solidified partnerships that have emerged all over the pitch. Winger Lloyd Sam and full back Sean Franklin have developed a great understanding of each other’s games on the right flank, while link-up play between creative midfielder Luciano Acosta and striker Patrick Mullins has become a real threat for any opposing defense, exemplified by Acosta’s goal against the Timbers (off a Mullins assist).
“We look for a lot of combination play. He’s a very crafty, gifted player,” said Mullins of his connection with Acosta. “I think it’s just something that’s gonna continue to grow… I wanna see some more of that going forward and finish off those chances.”
The Impact are just one place ahead of United in the Eastern Conference standings, making the three points up for grabs on Wednesday that much more valuable. D.C.’s defense did well to contain Montreal’s dynamic duo of Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti in their last matchup, allowing the pair just one combined shot on goal before a frustrated Drogba was sent off in the 81st minute.
United center backs Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum will look to employ a similar strategy to the one that was so successful a few weeks ago.
“Bobby and I basically double-teamed [Drogba] when we were in the attack,” said Birnbaum of containing the imposing Ivorian forward. “He’s a great player and you can’t let him have time on the ball."
United will look to follow the blueprint that so nearly brought them a win in their previous meeting with Montreal. The Black-and-Red have scored in each of their last six games and will need to continue their run of strong performances on both sides of the ball to defeat the French Canadian side.