D.C. United didn't get off to a very good start defensively or offensively this season. It's been a different story in their last four matches.
United look to extend their unbeaten streak to five when they face the expansion Montreal Impact for the first time Wednesday night at RFK Stadium.
D.C. (2-2-2) allowed four goals in dropping its first two games, the second of which was a 3-1 loss at Los Angeles on March 18. Since then, United have tightened it up, giving up two goals during their four-game run.
On Saturday, Chris Pontius came on in the 79th minute and scored his first goal of the season in the 82nd, snapping a tie and giving D.C. a 2-1 win at New England.
"He certainly made my life more difficult today," coach Ben Olsen said of Pontius. "And that's what I'm asking him to do, you know, guys when they come in to make me have sleepless nights about who's going to be out there."
D.C. recorded a season-high 22 shots - seven on goal. United have put 20 shots on goal in their last three games after managing five in the first three.
They also got another strong performance from Joe Willis, who made a season-high six saves, though he benefited from a shot that hit the goal post on a direct kick. Willis has a 1.00 goals-against average and 18 saves in 2012.
"Last year we probably find a way to lose that game and I'm seeing some signs of this team figuring out ways to be winners," Olsen said.
Maicon Santos scored his team-best third goal of the season, and he and United appear to have a good opportunity to continue their strong offensive play. The Impact (1-5-1) have conceded an MLS-high 14 goals.
Montreal earned its first league win April 7 against Toronto but couldn't follow it up last weekend, falling 2-1 at Dallas. Bernardo Corradi scored on a penalty in the 61st minute to give Montreal yet another 1-0 lead, but Dallas tied it in the 77th and Brek Shea tallied the winner in the 88th.
"We, at this point, have to figure out how to get leads and how to hold onto them. That's the only way you can be successful," coach Jesse Marsch said. "There was a lot of good play in there. ... But when we went up 1-0, it just wasn't a solid enough job of taking care of plays, of 11 guys being very hard to play against and just taking care of things."
The Impact have scored the first goal in three of their last four games and four times this season, but they blew each of those leads other than the one they held in their 2-1 victory over Toronto.
"It's something we need to work on," goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts said. "When we get the lead we need to make sure we keep our cool and relax. ... We need to settle down and take control of the game."
Zarek Valentin nearly put the Impact back ahead in the 87th minute Saturday, but Kevin Hartman made a spectacular diving save on his 25-yard blast.
United's last five-game unbeaten streak came June 18-July 16, a 1-0-4 stretch.
- Montreal Impact