Reporting Bobby Bancroft
WASHINGTON – Brushing off heat both on the field and from the teams just below them in the tightly contested MLS Eastern Conference Standings, D.C. United was more than cool in easily registering a 3-0 win over the visiting Montreal Impact before a season-best 18,302 at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.
D.C. United (10-5-3, 33 points) was able to survive the 95-degree conditions at kickoff and put in what Coach Ben Olsen referred to as a “pretty professional performance” against a Montreal (5-10-3, 18 points) side that was low on rest – three games in seven days – and players – suspensions and injuries.
“No matter what, you have to take advantage of teams that our down on their luck and I think we did that today – we stepped on them,” Olsen said.
With its sixth consecutive home win, United regained sole possession of first-place in the East after the New York Red Bulls could only manage a 1-1 draw with cellar dwellers Toronto FC to fall two points back of the pace with a game in hand.
Fresh off of inking a new deal with the Black-and-Red, midfielder Branko Boskovic got a start in the middle of the park against an opponent that was looking to slow things down in an effort to split the points.
But moments before the halftime intermission United solved Montreal’s defensive riddle with the hero of the moment – Chris Pontius.
Pontius continued his torrid scoring streak with a beautiful run down the left hand side of the field after receiving a looping ball from Dwayne De Rosario. The fourth-year forward ran past one Impact defender, faked out another two defenders with a hard cut to his right, and then sent a left-footed smash towards the far post that broke the deadlock.
“I didn’t even know I was going to do that,” Pontius joked about his eventful run that ultimately deflated the Impact heading into the break.
Going back over the last two league games against Philadelphia and New York, it was the fourth-straight United goal scored by Pontius. It was also his ninth goal of the season, already a career-high just past the midway point of the campaign.
De Rosario, meanwhile, who seems stuck on 98 career MLS goals, was able to register his 10th assist of the season which is good enough for tops in the league.
Boskovic once again showed his quality just five minutes after the start of the second half by dropping a perfectly placed free kick that found its way onto the diving head of defender Robbie Russell before splashing the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
“It’s always great to get your first goal for the new club and it means a lot to me…but I’ll still take that zero [on the scoreboard],” Russell said about both scoring and helping anchor a defensive shutout in front of goalie Bill Hamid.
Late second-half substitute Hamdi Salihi finished the game off with a true poachers goal just into stoppage time to make the final score more closely resemble the dominating performance that it was for the hosts as they outshot the visitors 9-1.
But for Coach Ben Olsen, the game turned on the Pontius strike just before the half.
“Overall I thought we could have been sharper in a lot of areas in the first half – we could have moved the ball quicker, our urgency wasn’t there enough for me,” Olsen said.
“To get that goal, I think with a team that’s struggling on an energy scale, it broke [Montreal] pretty good.”
United Notes: The Black-and-Red have two full weeks off before traveling to Houston to meet the Dynamo on Sunday, July 15th for the third and final regular season meeting of the season. Both teams have split home wins thus far with the Dynamo taking the most recent matchup 1-0 on May 12.
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