Laurent Ciman got the party started early and Montreal's forwards slammed the door in D.C. United's face as the Impact rolled to a 4-2 road win in their Eastern Conference Knockout Round matchup on Thursday evening.
Montreal executed their game plan to perfection after Ciman broke free at the far post to turn in a Marco Donadel corner kick just four minutes into the game. After that, the visitors were happy to sit off the ball and ruthlessly take advantage of D.C.'s mistakes with a deadly counterattack.
Matteo Mancosu would net his first goal of the game and Montreal's second just two minutes before the halftime whistle after he lost D.C.'s Bobby Boswell at the far post to redirect a perfectly-placed cross from Impact playmaker Ignacio Piatti.
United, one of the league's hottest teams heading into the playoffs, largely failed to generate dangerous looks against a buttoned-up Impact backline marshaled by Ciman and Victor Cabrera. On the other end, Mancosu all but sealed D.C.'s fate just before the hour mark when he used his head to redirect a bending cross from Ambroise Oyongo into the back of the net. Piatti then added insult to injury in the closing minutes with a cool finish on the break.
The Impact will now turn their attention to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they will face the No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls in a home-and-home series starting Sunday at Stade Saputo in Montreal.
- 4' – MTL – Lauren Ciman (Marco Donadel)
- 43' – MTL – Matteo Mancosu (Ignacio Piatti)
- 58' – MTL – Matteo Mancosu (Ambroise Oyongo)
- 83' – MTL – Ignacio Piatti (Matteo Mancosu)
- 90' – DC – Lamar Neagle (Patrick Nyarko)
- 90+4' – DC – Taylor Kemp
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- A TALE OF TWO BACKLINES: Defending was the story on Thursday night. On one hand, D.C.’s team defense suffered from multiple fatal lapses, with Rob Vincent losing his man on Ciman’s opener, Boswell doing the same on the visitors’ second and Steve Birnbaum repeating the trick on the third. On the other side, Ciman had one of the busiest games for a center back this season, while partner Victor Cabrera also drew plaudits for his one-on-one defending as the Impact held D.C. without a shot on target until the 78th minute.
- BETTER WITHOUT DROGBA?: Didier Drogba was in attendance at RFK Stadium, but what he saw from the stands was an Impact team firing on all cylinders without him. The case has already been thoroughly argued throughout the year, and it’s hard to say this showing from Mauro Biello’s men did anything to change the minds of fans and pundits who think the Impact are a better team without Drogba. They have now won 53 percent of the games in which Drogba hasn't started and just 17 percent of the games that he has started. Whether the Ivorian superstar returns to the Impact first XI – or even the bench – will continue to be one of the biggest playoff stories to follow in the coming weeks.
- LOOKING AHEAD: The Impact can enjoy a second-consecutive Knockout Round victory for now, but the task ahead of them will only get harder. A dynamic, hard-working Red Bulls midfield should provide a much stiffer test for the Impact’s capable but aging midfield trio of Patrice Bernier, Donadel and Hernan Bernardello. Luckily for the Impact, they are a team that is well-schooled in the defend-and-counter ethos that will be needed to grab a series win – it just may not look as easy as it did Thursday night.