By PABLO MAURER
WASHINGTON – Mired in the depths of the worst season in club and league history, D.C. United got a rare taste of victory Saturday night.
What’s more, D.C.’s goals came from a trio of newcomers, all picked up in the past month in an effort to rebuild the team around a core of youthful prospects.
Luis Silva, Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey all found the back of the net in a comprehensive 3-1 dismantling of the Montreal Impact. The victory gives D.C. added confidence heading into their U.S. Open Cup semi-final matchup with Chicago on Wednesday.
“This was one of those nights where everything you wanted to get out of the game happened,” commented United head coach Ben Olsen, who went on to note that he was relieved to be able to manage minutes ahead of the Open Cup match. “Getting those guys [De Rosario, Deleon, Silva] out at the right time – and then the subs did a great job as well. All 3 of them put in really good shifts.”
Montreal, who started the season white hot but have more recently turned lukewarm, never really looked threatening at any point in Saturday night’s rain-soaked affair.
The hosts enjoyed several dominant spells of possession throughout the game’s opening 45 minutes, at times pinning the Impact deep in their own end. Montreal did little to counter, perhaps surprised at the energetic performance offered up by their down-trodden opposition.
D.C. waited only seven minutes for their first quality chance of the match. United forward Dwayne De Rosario found himself in alone on goal after an Impact clearance took a fortunate deflection, falling directly into his path at the top of the 18. His right-footed attempt, however, would trickle just outside the near post.
At the quarter hour mark, United fell just short again, as midfielder Nick Deleon’s point blank attempt was saved by Montreal keeper Troy Perkins. Moments later, Perkins would push De Rosario’s follow-up attempt from 25 yards out over the crossbar.
D.C.’s breakthrough came at the 20 minute mark, as newcomer Luis Silva used yet another moment of individual creativity and flair to find the back of the net. Silva’s strike–a low, driven shot from the right side of the box–was his third in as many games, tying him for the team lead in goals after just 141 minutes in a United uniform.
Montreal would finally find their rhythm in the second half. Defender Jeb Brovsky pushed down the right flank in the 52nd minute, finding Davy Arnaud at the top of the 18. Arnaud quickly touched the ball back to Brovsky, who slotted it towards the far post, beating Willis for his first career goal. Brovsky would have likely been called offside, but was kept on by a well out-of-position Dejan Jakovic.
Not to be outdone, United struck back a quarter of an hour later, as James Riley played a low, driven cross to the top of the six, which was met by United’s newest acquisition, Conor Doyle. The former Derby County forward, who had actually never scored a goal in his professional club career, coolly finished from six yards out, putting United back in front.
“It’s been a long time, it’s been a tough road,” Doyle reflected after the match. “I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been down a lot and to be able to go out there and get that first professional goal is really special.”
Montreal desperately pushed for an equalizer in the games dying moments, and United took advantage of it. Doyle and Jeffrey broke in alone on Perkins, and Doyle calmly pushed the ball across the box to Jeffrey for the easy tap-in. It was a special moment for both players, on the field together at the club level for the first time since 2008 – when they shared the pitch for their youth club, the Dallas Texans.
The victory does little for United’s current plight in MLS, as the black and red have little to no chance to qualify for the playoffs and remain cemented in the Eastern Conference basement. It does, however, give them a spark heading into Wednesday’s match – a game that, at this point, is likely more important than any match United has played in 2013.
“Ben was talking about getting into a getting into a good rhythm and get that winning mentality going into the game on Wednesday,” Jeffrey said. “I think it’s definitely a good thing for us now, to experience winning a little bit and get some confidence going into that mid-week game.”