Montreal heads to DCU with sights set on first place

A pair of teams at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference table will meet at RFK Stadium on Saturday as D.C. United gets set to host the Montreal Impact.

Montreal has maintained a position inside the top-three in the East for much of the season, but United has turned out an abysmal campaign that has seen the storied club lose 15 of its 21 matches.

D.C. has been cemented to the foot of the overall MLS table as it enters the weekend on 10 points, seven points adrift of next-worst Chivas USA and Toronto FC.

United has dropped four of its last five league contests, most recently falling in a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution at home last weekend.

The fact that D.C. reached the semifinals of the MLS Cup playoffs last season has added to the frustration this term, but head coach Ben Olsen still has faith in his roster.

"(Luis) Silva is a real piece, and we are looking to add as many real pieces to the club right now," Olsen said. "I've got one eye here presently on the week-to-week MLS ... I have another eye on the Open Cup, which is a big deal, and finding out what the best team is that we would have out there. And I have my third eye on the future of this club, and that's a very important thing right now. I still believe in the future of this club and a bunch of these guys I have in this locker room."

Like United, Montreal had experienced a poor stretch when it brought a five- game winless run into its clash with Sporting Kansas City last weekend, but the Impact were able to end the poor spell thanks to Blake Smith's late goal, which gave the Canadian club a 1-0 victory.

"The win was huge for us today and that's all that really needs to be said," Smith said after the match. "We fought hard and played the entire 90 plus minutes and we deserved the win. I want to come in and give the team a spark and help for one final push when I come in the game."

While Smith stole the headlines with his dramatic winner in the final minute of stoppage time, head coach Marco Schallibaum was quick to disperse credit to the rest of the team, namely the defensive unit.

"We had another good game defensively today," Schallibaum said. "They had very few scoring chances. We played right up until the very end and we never gave up tonight, even in stoppage time and for me as a coach, it was a happy ending when you make a change and bring a player who scores the winning goal for us. We deserve to win. It's important that we point out that we didn't steal this game in the final minutes. We earned it all game long."

The Impact, level with Red Bull New York on 35 points apiece, enter Saturday's match at RFK Stadium within one point of first-place Sporting. And with Kansas City playing host to the Red Bulls earlier in the day, maximum points could lift Schallibaum's team to the Eastern Conference summit, depending on the result at Sporting Park.