WASHINGTON – D.C United’s encounter with the Montreal Impact had all the makings of a dreary encounter: two teams playing their third game in 10 days, and doing so in unseasonably cold temperatures on a pitch that just a night earlier was buried in over half a foot of snow.
And in many ways, that scenario played out – neither team looked particularly well-connected or anxious to grab hold of the match in a choppy first half; the field, about a third of which was frozen solid, seemed to factor into the gameplay as much as the players did. For either team to extract a result on Saturday, Montreal or D.C. would have to find a difference maker.
United did so. Jairo Arrieta played a lively second half and put the game away with a 58th-minute strike, deftly tucking a shot around Montreal ‘keeper Evan Bush from the upper left-hand corner of the penalty area.
"I thought Jairo was great,” United head coach Ben Olsen said after the match. "The way he occupied their center backs – all we’re asking him to do is to connect passes; make it difficult on the two center backs and then get it to our wide midfielders or the underneath forward – and then be in dangerous spots in the 18. He did that tonight. I thought he took the goal well, that’s a very tough finish. I’m happy for him. That’s two goals in two games, so he’s feeling pretty good about himself.”
The former Columbus Crew forward combined well with his teammates throughout the evening, in particular with strike partner Chris Pontius, whom he set up for a pair of opportunities – including Pontius’ second-half effort which struck the underside of the crossbar and very nearly went in. He was active defensively as well, something that’s proven to be important to Olsen over the years; D.C.’s boss has traditionally expected his forwards to be involved on both sides of the ball.
“We wanted to pressure them from the get go,” Arrieta told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We badly wanted to get an early goal, and even though that didn’t happen, I think we threw them off their gameplan well. I think this was a deserved win. We played well and deserved the result.
“I think Chris and I combined well – even though we don’t know each other that well and haven’t played much together, I think we combine quite well and made quite a few good plays.”
United will likely need the Costa Rican, who also contributed a goal to D.C.’s 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League victory over Alajuelense earlier this week, to maintain his good form. First-choice forward Fabian Espindola remains suspended for the next five games and Luis Silva, who accounted for 11 of D.C.’s goals in 2014, continues to rehab from a hamstring ailment.
“When I found out that we signed Jairo in the off-season I was very excited,” said D.C. United midfielder Davy Arnaud. "Watching him play last year and over the past few years, I’ve always admired the way that he plays, I like how he plays the game. I was wondering how we got him to be honest with you.
"Any player who works like he does, I’ll take him on my team for sure,” concluded Arnaud. “His ability to hold the ball up – people don’t notice that a lot; the way the he gets his body in and gets tough balls up, plays simple and plays one and two touches, it allows us to relieve pressure and move up the field. When somebody does that for us up top, it makes everybody else’s job a lot easier."