September 15, 2019

D.C. United Game 34 Recap: Rainy draw in Montreal brings regular season to close

ESPINDOLA SCORES LATE TO EARN D.C. A POINT

In this massive turnaround season for D.C. United, a 1-1 draw in Montreal on the final day leaves D.C. with a club-record 59 points for the season and first place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference heading into the MLS Cup playoffs. Fabian Espindola scored his 11th goal of the season in the 86th minute to bring United level. D.C. finished the regular season 17-9-8 and will win the East by at least four points. Montreal finishes where United did a season ago, dead last in the East, with 27 points (6-18-9).

The game meant vastly different things to each team. Thanks to the L.A. Galaxy’s loss at Seattle earlier in the day, a win in Montreal would have given D.C. the second overall seed in the playoffs, allowing D.C. to host the MLS Cup final (should it get that far) against any team other than Seattle. The 1-1 draw, however, leaves United two points behind the Galaxy. For Montreal, it was a showcase for retiring forward Marco Di Vaio, who is calling it a career at age 38.

Di Vaio got his sendoff in stoppage time after scoring Montreal’s lone goal in the 26th minute – his team-leading ninth goal of the season and his 34th in his three seasons with the Impact. It looked for much of the game like that was going to be enough to decide matters. But Espindola changed all that in the late going. As Espindola typically does in possession near the penalty area when on the right attacking side, he cut to his left in possession and with the Impact defense unable to close him down, Espindola sent a low shot inside the near post that beat Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush.

It was Espindola’s 11th goal of the season and also showed him again to be one of the key figures in United’s epic 2014 turnaround. While United would do well to get the injured Chris Rolfe and Luis Silva back either in time for the start of the playoffs or, as is more likely for Silva, some time along the way, United is never out of a match with Espindola on the field. He is the type of game-changer the club simply didn’t possess a season ago.

United now play the waiting game, as it will take on the winner of the match between the 4/5 seeds in the East in the conference semifinals. The second match of that two-leg affair will be at RFK Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 2:30 p.m.

THE GOOD: While Espindola was briefly treated for what may have been a cut on the top of his head, he was clearly fine and United appeared to get out of this match without sustaining any significant injuries.

THE BAD: It would have been good to end the regular season on a winning note, but you can’t worry about hosting the MLS Cup final before the conference semifinals have even been played. One step at a time.

THE UGLY: It poured for most of the game and probably took some of the potential creativity out of the match.

NOTES: United had an edge in most key stats, putting up 13 shots to Montreal’s 10; five efforts on goal to Montreal’s two, and five corners to the Impact’s three. … The official attendance was 15,242. … United’s previous high for points in a season was 58, set in 1998 and 2012.

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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