July 15, 2020

D.C. United Game 15 Recap: Silva’s trick is United’s treat in 4-2 win at Montreal

In a first half that at times featured all the defensive intensity of an MLS All-Star Media Game, D.C. United got the better of the proceedings thanks to a hat trick from Luis Silva and a goal by Nick DeLeon, beating the Montreal Impact, 4-2, Wednesday night. All six goals were scored in the opening 45 minutes. United moved into sole possession of first place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference with the win, on a 7-4-4 (25 points) record. The team was dead last in MLS last season at 3-24-7 (16 points).

Silva had never had a two-goal game with United, let alone a hat trick. But the midfielder who was acquired from Toronto FC last season started the first half on its crazy path just 6 minutes in. After some nice possession work, Chris Rolfe got on the ball at the edge of the attacking third and found Fabian Espindola ahead to his right, who quickly located Silva cutting between two Montreal defenders. The pass (despite a deflection) was perfect and Silva hit a right-footed shot low and past Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins to make it 1-0.

Part of the brilliance of the opening goal was due to Espindola. As Rolfe passed it to him, United’s most dangerous offensive player quickly drew a double team as two Montreal players ran at him. This is understandable, given Espindola entered the match with seven goals and five assists (the team lead in both categories). Silva brilliantly ran right into the space the two Impact players vacated, leaving two other defenders not enough time to react.

But Silva’s opener was only the beginning of a goal festival in the first half. Montreal tied it through Jack McInerney six minutes later. Andrés Romero then gave the Impact a 2-1 lead in the 21st minute, leaving many to surely wonder if United were again going to fail to beat MLS’ worst team, as it did in a 1-1 home draw on May 17.

It turned out, such worries were unfounded. Just two minutes after Romero’s goal, United drew level, this time via Nick DeLeon’s first goal of the season. And while DeLeon gets full credit for the finish, it was again Espindola that turned the key here. This goal featured a full team buildup, with six different players touching the ball via quick passing from the back line into the attack. Good work by Silva in the midfield prevented the Impact from intercepting Cristian Fernandez’s lead pass.

Silva found Espindola in his usual office down the left side, and he had Rolfe in the middle channel and DeLeon on the right. To complete what was really a very pretty team goal, Espindola quickly whipped in a left-footed cross to a perfect spot where DeLeon was able to knock it home and make it 2-2. After everything this team and its fans went through during the 2013 league season, this goal should be watched over and over again because it’s one of the best the team has scored in a long, long time.

But amazingly, there was more to come. In the 39th minute, Silva hit home his second to give United a 3-2 lead. After a midfield turnover, the ball was sent forward for Silva, who tried to play it ahead, but it deflected off Espindola, the latter helping to shield a Montreal (2-7-4, 10 points) defender in the process. That left Silva running alone on the ball in the Montreal half. On a 3-on-2, with attackers either side of Silva, neither defender could really afford to step up to him. From more than 25 yards out, Silva let fly and beat Perkins high to his left. United fans are familiar with Silva letting go from distance and finding the net, but apparently the Impact didn’t get the memo.

Espindola’s third assist of the game was his eighth of the season, which is already a career high for the eight-year MLS veteran. He had seven helpers with Real Salt Lake in 2012.

Deep into first-half stoppage time, Silva got a golden opportunity to complete his hat trick from the penalty spot. Referee Mark Kadlecik whistled Montreal’s Hassoun Camara for taking down United rookie defender Steve Birnbaum in the area on a restart. Birnbaum made initial contact with Camara and then both players went down, but Kadlecik judged it as a Montreal foul. Either way, Silva smashed the kick home to the right of Perkins, who had guessed to the wrong side.

Montreal’s best chance to get back in the game in the second half came in the 76th minute, when United midfielder Davy Arnaud was whistled for a foul in the D.C. penalty area. But Patrice Bernier’s spot kick bounced off the post to United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra’s right, then off Dykstra’s back and out of bounds. Dykstra, filling in for usual starter Bill Hamid, is an impressive 3-0-1 in 2014 with a 0.75 goals against average and two shutouts.

United saw out the game from there, with midfielder Alex Caskey making his traditional late-game appearance with United holding a lead. D.C. now heads into an extended break from league play for the World Cup. But United is back in action on Monday night in Rochester in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. United won the Cup last year for the third time. The Rhinos play in USL Pro (third division) and are 5-3-5 this season, good for fourth in the 14-team league. Rochester won the Open Cup in 1999.

NOTES:  Arnaud’s caution means he will be suspended for United’s match on June 28 vs. Seattle. Espindola’s yellow means he will be suspended for his next caution. … Birnbaum got his second straight start for United. He was the team’s top overall SuperDraft pick last winter (University of California). Birnbaum has stepped in for Jeff Parke in his two starts. … United were tremendously efficient shooting last night. Nine of the 12 total shots were on goal (75%). Only 43% of United’s shots had been on target entering the match. … United is 4-1-2 since a 3-2 loss at Portland on May 3.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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