D.C. United ends a night of frustration with a late goal and a victory

D.C. United ends a night of frustration with a late goal and a victory

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

In the early weeks of the MLS campaign, D.C. United has flashed maturity and resolve by earning a point on each of three treacherous road trips. But to make true strides in this transitional year, Troy Lesesne’s coalescing squad will need to begin winning regularly at Audi Field.

Saturday night’s performance against CF Montreal had all the makings of a Buzzard Point celebration. The energy was high, pressure unrelenting, opportunities aplenty.

But it took until the 85th minute, on substitute Pedro Santos’s booming one-timer, for United to end a night of frustration and go on to a 1-0 victory before 18,402 restless supporters.

The decisive play came off a throw-in. Christian Benteke won the header. A Montreal effort did not clear the box. Santos ran onto the free ball and bashed a 17-yard left-footer into the near side of the net for his first goal of the season.

“I was extremely focused to hit the ball well, and as soon as I hit it, I felt I will score the goal,” said Santos, who typically starts but came off the bench after serving a red-card suspension last week.

As he watched the shot take flight, D.C. center back Lucas Bartlett said there were “a lot of prayers hoping it goes in because we had a lot of chances.”

Right back Aaron Herrera said, “Those are the ones as [an outside] back that you dream about.”

Goalkeeper Alex Bono said, “I’ve been on the opposite end of that plenty of times, both playing against Pedro in the past and in training all the time; when you see him with space in front of him, lining up for ball like that, you know there’s a chance something special could happen.”

United (2-1-3) ended a four-game winless streak (0-1-3) and rebounded from a home defeat against Miami two weeks ago. Montreal (2-2-1) was playing the fifth of six straight away matches to start the season before the weather warms at home.

There were two surprises in Lesesne’s lineup: Cristian Dájome instead of Gabriel Pirani in the attack and Conner Antley in place of Santos at left back.

“It was a decision I have to accept because my teammates deserve to play,” Santos said. “I come into the game with the mentality to help the team to win.”

Lesesne said he did not grow anxious about his team’s inability to score.

“I would describe it as I just wanted to see us get what we deserve,” he said. “We deserved three points on the night, but we needed to go earn it, and we continued to push, and the guys that came on pushed in a big way.”

United generated numerous opportunities, particularly in the first half. An offside flag nullified Benteke’s goal. Jonathan Sirois made a slap save on Benteke’s header, and Gabriele Corbo cleared the rebound off the goal line.

Montreal’s chances were few but threatening. Timely tackles by Antley, Herrera, Bartlett and Chris McVey extinguished threats.

United’s Ted Ku-DiPietro sent a header high, and Benteke missed a clear seven-yard nod. Sirois’ sterling save thwarted Mateusz Klich’s free kick.

United thought it had gained a man advantage in the 55th minute when Joel Waterman was red-carded for tripping Ku-DiPietro from behind, but after video review it was reduced to a yellow card.

Herrera rescued United in the 61st, clearing Josef Martínez’s bid off the goal line.

In the 74th minute, Lesesne turned to Pirani and Santos.

Benteke’s header off Klich’s corner kick in the 82nd hit the base of the near post. But then Santos struck the ball with purity and force, out of Sirois’ reach and just inside the left post for his 25th MLS goal.

United sweated out more than eight minutes of stoppage time before exhaling. Bono recorded his second shutout.

Here’s what else to know about United’s victory:

Two players back from international duty — Guatemalan right back Herrera and Finnish midfielder Matti Peltola — rejoined the starting lineup. Forward Kristian Fletcher (U.S. under-19 national team) entered in the 84th, and defender Matai Akinmboni (U.S. U-19s) did not play.

With three weeks until the first transfer and trade window closes, United is not expected to make any significant roster moves. However, the club is beginning to make plans for the second window, July 18 to Aug. 14, when there is greater availability.

United has been looking to move left back Mohanad Jeahze, which would open an international roster slot. Additional space would be available if midfielder Russell Canouse is placed on the injured list. He is out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness.

United’s visit to Columbus, Ohio, next Saturday to play the reigning champion Crew will mark the fourth time in seven games its opponent is active in both MLS and the Concacaf Champions Cup.

Columbus will welcome United four days after it hosts Mexican club Tigres in the first leg of the quarterfinals and three days before it travels to Monterrey for the second leg.

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