Jairo Arrieta’s lone goal helped to propel D.C. United to a season-opening 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact this afternoon at snowy and cold RFK Stadium. Just two days removed from a storm that dumped eight inches of snow on the Nation’s Capital, United and the Impact met on a field strewn with pock marks and soggy patches of grass. The elements not withstanding, both teams were coming off of their respective CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matches with the visitors in the better mood via their advancement over Mexican giants Pachuca while United were left licking their wounds after their dismissal at the hands of Alajuelense of Costa Rica.
Undeterred, the Black-and-Red took it to their Canadian counterparts and controlled large portions of the run of play. United had the first opportunity of the match 19 minutes in thanks in part to the determination of Arrieta. A poor first touch from Belgian defender Laurent Ciman allowed the speedy Costa Rican to steal the ball away 30 yards from goal. While being tackled Arrieta managed to nudge the ball to fellow striker Chris Pontius and his angled left-footed bid rolled agonizingly past the far post.
United continued to boss the play but it was Montreal that would strike at the next golden opportunity in the 35th minute and to no one’s surprise United goalkeeper Bill Hamid easily parried away Montreal left back Donny Toia’s rasping 25-yard drive. After the break both teams took turns wrestling the tempo away from each other but it was United who would finally break through in the 58th minute. After a routine save by Hamid, Nick DeLeon played a ball to Davy Arnaud who immediately one-timed it upfield to Chris Rolfe, Rolfe, easily the best player on the day, sent a ball over the defense to a streaking Arrieta. Arrieta, playing in place of suspended striker Fabian Espindola, easily outpaced the Impact defense and beat goalkeeper Evan Bush to the ball just inside the top right corner of the penalty area. The slippery Arrieta then pushed the ball with the outside of his right foot (left) just beneath Bush and it rolled easily into the vacated net to give United the 1-0 lead.
United should have doubled the score just two minutes later when Pontius and Arrieta combined for a beautiful chance at goal. Pontius was a bit quicker to a bouncing ball and beat Ciman and headed the ball over the Belgian to Arrieta. Arrieta, sensing the run to goal from Pontius, put the ball over his head and into Pontius’ stride where he chested the ball down and toe-poked a shot past Bush but off the crossbar and down just a few inches from going over the goal line.
After that point it was all Montreal as the visitors pushed numbers into the attack. Montreal felt hard done by when in the 76th minute Hassoun Camara’s shot from five yards out was goal bound only to see it hit off the upper arm of Conor Doyle who was positioned on the goal line. The Impact were screaming for a penalty as the ball was finally cleared out of danger. Minutes later the game would take a sullen turn as Impact midfielder Justin Mapp suffered what seemed to be a serious injury. The speedy winger had gotten in behind the United defense and was just about to pull the trigger on a shot when defender Chris Korb managed to poke the ball away. At the same time Hamid had come out to narrow the angle and as all three players converged (below), it was Mapp who came out injured when he apparently dislocated an appendage when cushioning his blow to the ground. Hamid and Korb both called immediately to the training staff as they both realized the severity of the collision.
After Mapp was carted off United continued to defend in numbers and held the Impact without any real game-tying chances. In addition to their defensive effort, substitute Miguel Aguilar did a fantastic job of killing of time with a number of great challenges to win balls including one 30-second sequence in which he skinned every Impact defender in sight as they struggled to take the ball off the precocious rookie who was making his MLS debut.
United easily saw out the extended injury time, due to Mapp’s gruesome injury, and got themselves their first opening day win since beating Columbus in 2011.