Just a week ago, the entire DC United squad seemed lost as reigning MVP Giovinco had one of his best games of the year. United were a mess defensively, allowing the Italian to score a hat trick and pick up an assist on the way to a 4-1 loss. A quick turnaround was needed for a club who were suddenly out of the playoff picture and about to face one of the most dangerous duos in the league- Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti.
The pair, both All Stars, have combined for 20 goals and 10 assists thus far this season. Sunday night however, they were simply unable to do anything against a determined United defense. Right back Sean Franklin was key in breaking up several dangerous moments, keeping Piatti in check all game. In fact, the entire United displayed a terrific defensive effort. Center backs Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum frustrated Drogba all night long, causing him to lash out in frustration late in the second half which resulted in a straight red.
The Impact only managed to generate two shots on goal all game, with only one of those coming from the Piatti-Drogba duo.
Franklin spoke of the team’s strategy going into the game, saying “When we’re attacking and turnover the ball, they like to play it quick to Piatti or Drogba. We did a good job of sniffing those plays out early”. With United pressing high up the field, the counterattack should have been on for Montreal, but each time they got the ball in a dangerous spot a DC player was right there. “I thought we pressed well as a team. We covered for players and when plays broke down the next guy was there to help”.
Franklin, who knows a thing or two about a championship sides, winning two MLS Cups with the LA Galaxy, spoke of the importance of putting in defensive performances like this. “Some of the best teams in the league have been good defensively and I think thats what we’re going to need. Not just with our back line, but with our forwards and midfielders. That’s what we need to take us to the next level and into next weekend.” Although they ultimately let in the killer equalizer late in the game, the draw is mostly the fault of poor finishing by their offensive players.
Though they have struggled this year, it seems like defense is something DC can rely on, assuming they make the playoffs. So far, United is 4th in the league in shutouts and 6th in the league in goals conceded. Look for defenders Franklin, Birnbaum and Boswell to continue to lead this team from the back and try to make a run into the last quarter of the regular season.