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Arrieta Celebrates

United takes opener with 1-0 win over Montreal

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.

DSC_0172United 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.

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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.

It's been a rough week for Eddie Johnson. Photo: Tony Quinn.

Johnson’s late goal salvages 1-1 draw with Montreal

It’s been a rough few weeks for Eddie Johnson. Photo: Tony Quinn

Surprisingly left off the United States World Cup training camp roster in combination with a season-long scoring drought and not-so-flattering comments on his new team mates has added up to a ton of media attention and soul searching from the much-maligned 30-year old striker.

Perhaps now he can exhale and move on with the remainder of the season as he finally scored his first goal for D.C. United in last night’s 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact. Johnson scored in the 84th minute and saved what would have been a very disappointing loss to the cellar dwelling Impact.

Both teams struggled throughout the match to grab any type of foothold but it was the Black-and-Red who fell behind through another defensive mistake in the 54th minute. Cristian Fernandez, for not the first time this season, was caught in possession along the right sideline and Justin Mapp swooped in to collect the wayward touch from United’s left-back. Mapp took the ball to the end line where he spotted bona fide United-killer Jack McInerney peeling away from Bobby Boswell. McInerney took one touch to settle and then toe-poked the ball into the far side netting.

Minutes later, the Impact should have salted the game away if not for some heroic defending from Bill Hamid and Chris Korb. Sanna Nyassi, who’s speed on the counter gave United trouble all night long, took advantage of a slip from defender Jeff Parke in the box to open up some space and fire a shot that Hamid did well to parry to his right. The rebound however fell right into the lap of the opportunistic McInerney who had an open goal to shoot at. Korb desperately lunged his body in the way and deflected the goal-bound effort into the hands of the surprised Hamid.

With that bit of good fortune provided, United pushed forward and nearly equalized in the 73rd minute when substitute Luis Silva’s shot stung the crossbar and deflected over. It was United’s second effort off the woodwork of the night as they nearly scored an own-goal way back in the  15th minute.

United persistence finally paid off in the 84th minute with the game-tying goal from Eddie Johnson. Photo Tony Quinn.

United persistence finally paid off in the 84th minute with the game-tying goal from Eddie Johnson. Photo Tony Quinn.

United persistence finally paid off in the 84th minute with the game-tying goal. Great combination work from Cristian to Chris Rolfe to Espindola freed up the Argentine playmaker down the left flank. Espindola’s cross was beautifully whipped in and met the rising Johnson at the edge of the six-yard box and his header was perfectly placed into the far corner giving former United goalkeeper Troy Perkins no chance.

While the result was acceptable on it’s face, it felt very much like a lost opportunity for United on the night as it was the last-place team in MLS in United’s backyard. United now will turn their attention to the Houston Dynamo who come to town for a midweek clash on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. Houston is coming off a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy last night, a win that pushed the Dynamo ahead of D.C. United and into a tie for second with Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference.