D.C. United face another battle at the bottom of the standings this Saturday against the only team beneath them. United (5-9-3) travel internationally to face the Montreal Impact (4-5-6) at Stade Saputo.
It is obvious that United must put together goals and start making some results, but the events taking place throughout this stretch of hot summer days closely resemble the summer before.
United was (5-6-5) going into July last year. The team currently sits in the second to last spot in the Eastern Conference at (5-9-3). Once again, United are scrambling to find replacements for several absent starters, including forward Patrick Mullins (knee injury) and Nick DeLeon (back).
“It all turned for us at this point last year,” Lamar Neagle said. “I hate for it to have come to that again.”
United looked outward when faced with the same lull last July, specifically towards New York. Forward Mullins and Winger Lloyd Sam helped revive the team. But this year, Mullins and Sam are the ones on the injured list.
Former Terp Mullins is slowly returning from knee surgery while Sam has missed the last two games due to a reported hamstring issue. The midfielder was in training late this week.
“Those guys that were out for a while are getting back into it,” Neagle said. “It does feel a little like we are on an uptake, but we need to get results in order for that to mean anything.”
Neagle, who played for Montreal briefly in 2012, hit a hot streak of his own last summer. He scored five of nine total goals between September and October. This year, the veteran MLS player has scored just one goal in 17 league games.
“Last year I didn’t have many minutes but I was capitalizing on the minutes I did have,” Neagle said. “Now I am getting a lot more minutes but I am not capitalizing on anything. It is a little frustrating.”
He isn’t the only United player off mark. The team collectively has scored just 12 goals in the 17 matches.
United’s Patrick Nyarko alleviated some of the anxiety of a scoreless drought last week by converting the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Atlanta United.
“Nyarko is one of the best in the league at what he does,” Neagle said. “Him coming back and scoring relieves some of that pressure and helps open up the field.”
Since the match against Atlanta, United has dropped a league game 1-0 to Philadelphia and an Open Cup match to the New England Revolution. But there is little comfort in the déjà vu.
“Knowing that we have been through this before with the same group of guys gives us a little bit of confidence,” Neagle said. “It feels like we are getting closer and closer, but we are not getting the results.”
Yet United face another challenge in Montreal. In addition to their trouble in the final third, United will have to adjust to losing their commander in the net, Bill Hamid. Goalkeeper Hamid flew out after the match against Philadelphia to join the US National Team in preparation for the Gold Cup tournament.
“When you lose a guy like Bill, it is tough,” Neagle said. “I mean there is a reason he was called up [to the national team].”
With backup goal keeper Travis Worra likely the next-man-up in net, United travel up north to face a struggling Impact on Saturday, July 1 at 7 p.m., but it will have to be a team effort if United wants to collect points on the road.
“It’s not just the defense,” Neagle said. “The offense has to step up too. We can’t expect to win 1-0 or on a penalty kick. We have to get results.”
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