D.C. United edge passed Montreal in scrappy season-opener
WASHINGTON, March 7, 2015 — In what was a scrappy affair, D.C. United kicked off it’s 20th season in Major League Soccer with a 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday. Jairo Arrieta’s well-taken goal in the 58th minute was enough to secure the the three points before a crowd of 11,549 on a cold, but clear, afternoon at RFK Stadium.
United took the lead, when Arrieta, who joined United in the off-season from Orlando, beat Impact goalie Evan Bush in a foot race to reach Chris Rolfe’s long pass at the top of the 18-yard box. The speedy Costa Rican, right-footed Rolfe’s pass with the outside of his cleat passed Bush, who was acres of his line, into Montreal’s empty net.
Two minutes later, United were unlucky not to earn a second goal when Chris Pontius’ close-range effort came off the underside of the bar and bounced clear.
Montreal looked to have tied the game in the 76th minute but defender Hassoun Camara saw his shot from three yards out stopped on the line by substitute Conor Doyle. The Montreal players pleaded for a penalty kick as it appeared Doyle had stopped the ball with his arm but the video tape showed that the ball came off the United striker’s shoulder.
The two clubs were recently involved in home and away games in the CONCACAF Championship and both teams looked a little ragged after playing their third game in less than 11 days.
Pontius saw his chance go wide in the 19th minute after a he took advantage of a breakdown in the Impact defense. But Montreal was very much in the game, and defender Donny Toia fired a blistering shot in the 34th minute which forced United goalie Bill Hamid to make a dive and push the ball out for a corner.
Then Chris Rolfe, United’s liveliest player on the night, had a shot saved by Bush in the 38th minute.
“Rolfe makes us a better team,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “He was very good tonight.”
United was slightly the better team in the first half but couldn’t find a way through the visitors crowded backline.
Arrieta, who stepped into the starting lineup for the suspended Fabian Espindola, finally broke the deadline after the break with his first league goal for his new club.
“I thought he was great,” said Olsen concerning Arrieta. “He took the goal very well from a tough situation.”
In the 81st minute the Impact’s Justin Mapp, who played a fine game, left the field with a serious arm injury.
United opened the season with pretty much the same lineup from last year’s campaign that won the Eastern Conference. But the team is missing key striker Espindola who is serving six-game suspension and new signing Finnish midfielder Markus Halsti who is nursing a MCl in the knee.
The revamped Impact was lead by former Aston Villa captain Nigel Reo-Coker.
United now has a bye week and next plays the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, March 22 on the road. By that time, Olsen says he hopes to have defender Taylor Kemp and attacking midfielder Luis Silva back in the lineup.
“Tonight we moved a step forward,” Olsen said.
John Haydon covered soccer for The Washington Times for over 20 years.