D.C. United’s struggles at home continue as it falls, 1-0, to the Montreal Impact.
IMPACT 1, D.C. UNITED 0
D.C. United’s first home match in a month Saturday never felt quite right, beginning before kickoff when goalkeeper Bill Hamid was scratched at the last moment and into the first half when United lacked urgency and energy.
United fell behind inside 15 minutes for the third consecutive game and, unlike the previous two weeks, didn’t marshal a response, falling to the Montreal Impact, 1-0, before an announced 14,993 at RFK Stadium.
The defeat spoiled a modest run of prosperity over five weeks, inflicted a fifth shutout in nine outings and left United (3-4-2) with only seven of a possible 15 points in five home dates.
Coach Ben Olsen was livid with his team.
“I thought the whole first half we were full of [expletive]. We looked like posers,” he said. “We thought it was an easy day at the office. We didn’t have enough courage and we didn’t have enough soccer.”
Later, Olsen added: “They had a little more to them in the first half and seemed like the game meant more to them than to us, and that’s unacceptable, in particular in this building.”
United raised its game in the second half but manufactured few threats against a stubborn Montreal side.
“We’re not good enough to think we have a switch where we can turn it on and off,” defender Bobby Boswell said. “We have to be on all the time. Our effort has to be there. That’s the frustrating part: The effort wasn’t necessarily there as a group in the first half. The second half was better, but the damage was done.”
United’s issues began before kickoff. Hamid was on the lineup sheet, but when the player procession snaked onto the field, Travis Worra was in line instead. Last Sunday in Atlanta, Hamid strained a groin muscle while making a save in the third minute but remained in the match.
An MRI exam showed no major problems, and he seemed on track to start.
“We had a talk, and there was some hesitation,” Olsen said. “When there is hesitation with a player who means that much to us, I made the call to give him another week to make sure he is 100 percent.”
Despite the setback, Hamid was available on the bench in case of emergency. Long-standing injuries, however, had ruled out captain Steve Birnbaum, Patrick Nyarko, Nick DeLeon and Rob Vincent. The Impact arrived in Washington without ailing striker Matteo Mancosu.
At the start of a three-game homestand, Luciano Acosta evaded six challenges in short order and sprayed the ball wide to Lloyd Sam, who chose to cross instead of shoot from an angle. The feed failed to find a recipient.
Montreal (2-3-4) went ahead in the 13th minute on a sterling solo effort by Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, an 18-year-old homegrown midfielder.
He warded off Jared Jeffrey about 35 yards from the target and pulled away from Acosta, who didn’t make enough effort to disrupt the run. Tabla surged into space and, when Kofi Opare backed off, teed up a 18-yard shot beyond Worra’s reach and into the lower left corner.
“We came out soft,” Jeffrey said, “and gave up a soft goal.”
Worra was under pressure several times in the first half, which ended without United mustering a proper response.
Olsen’s halftime message lit a fire. While hunger and purpose improved, execution remained imperfect.
Acosta’s dynamic work almost produced the equalizer in the 57th minute when he split two defenders and ripped a 20-yard effort off the top of the crossbar. United grew increasingly frustrated with referee Robert Sibiga, who, in the 64th minute, allowed play to continue despite Sam being bloodied by an elbow.
Substitute Patrick Mullins, in his first extended appearance since the third match, failed to finish two late chances. Opare’s apparent equalizer in the 85th minute was correctly disallowed because he was offside by a step.
The match ended in turmoil as teammates held back Boswell from going after Anthony Jackson-Hamel, who had struck him in the face in the waning moments.
“I was more unhappy about our performance. We should win at home,” Boswell said. “We had a chance here to put nine points on the board [on the homestand]; we just missed an opportunity to put three.”
Notes: Reserve midfielder Julian Buescher was a late scratch with a knee ailment, leaving six available subs instead of seven . . . .
United will host the Philadelphia Union (1-4-4) on Saturday.