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Reeling from three consecutive losses, D.C. United showed up in a big way in a pivotal game on Saturday night, beating the Montreal Impact 3-0 at Stade Saputo in Montreal. Ola Kamara scored twice, and Paul Arriola added the other goal, as the Black-and-Red raced out to a three-goal lead by the intermission, and held on strong in the second half, as they moved back up into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
It was the second year in a row that United beat the Impact in a late-season game with major playoff implications. Last year, United won 5-0 at Audi Field, on their way to completing their second half turnaround. On Saturday night, D.C. eased some of the pressure on themselves in a tight playoff race with the resounding win in Canada, which saw them jump back over the New York Red Bulls in the standings.
Head coach Ben Olsen sprung a surprise in his starting lineup but using Russell Canouse as a right back in his first game back from injury. Lucas Rodriguez also returned to the lineup, with Luciano Acosta dropping back to the substitute bench.
A week after conceding three goals in the first half in a loss to the Philadelphia Union, United exacted revenge on the Impact on Saturday. Kamara got the party started in the 20th minute, scoring his second goal for the club. Junior Moreno took a free kick just outside of the box, which hit the wall, and bounced in the box. Reacting quickly, Kamara smashed a left-footed shot past keeper Evan Bush, giving United a vital lead on the road.
Three minutes later, Arriola added to the lead, when he scored his sixth goal on the season. A goal kick from Bill Hamid was challenged for at midfield, with Montreal midfielder Samuel Piette heading the ball back towards his own goal, under pressure from Kamara. Arriola raced onto the loose ball, held off a challenge to get into the box, and then fired past Bush, giving United extra cushion on the road with a 2-0 lead.
And that advantage was made even bigger in the 32nd minute when Kamara made it two for the night. A corner kick from Felipe Martins was sent towards the far end of the box, where Frederic Brillant headed the ball towards the middle of the goal. Unmarked near the top of the six-yard box, Kamara redirected the ball with his own header, putting it out of reach of Bush, who was still reacting to the first header. The goal gave United three tallies in a half on the road for the third time this season, the previous two also ending in victory.
The hosts tried to claw their way back into the game, and came close in the 39th minute. Orji Okwonkwo, who had sent a header off-target early in the game, got another chance from a cross from Daniel Lovitz. This time, Okwonkwo was able to get his header on target, but Hamid made a sure-handed save to keep Montreal off the board in the first half.
Given the scoreline and the importance of the game for both teams, the second half played out exactly as expected, with Montreal pouring forward, and United desperately defending their box to maintain their lead. For the most part, United succeeded without much issue, though in the 48th minute, recent signing Bojan Krkic had a shot saved by Hamid, after a wild scramble in the box.
Hamid was called upon a couple of more times in the early stages of the half but never needed to make that one spectacular save to bail out his backline. And chances started opening up the other way for United, as Arriola just couldn't get the right touch on a ball from Joseph Mora in front of the goal in the 65th minute.
Maxi Urruti shot just wide a minute later, and Bojan's shot from just outside the box in the 84th minute had a similar fate, as the ball fizzed just wide of Hamid's goal. United had held on strong in the second half and were rewarded with their first shutout in six games.
With the win, United moved to 42 points from 30 games. They take the field next week in a friendly against Mexican side Puebla at Audi Field. With the upcoming FIFA international break, the Black-and-Red don't return to MLS action until September 15, when they travel to take on the Portland Timbers.