MONTREAL — Chris Rolfe scored early and Bill Hamid preserved the lead with several glittering saves as first-place D.C. United downed the Montreal Impact 1-0 on Saturday night.
United (13-7-5) posted a third straight victory but only a third win away from home this season. The Impact (8-9-4), ended a three-game unbeaten run.
While awaiting the debut of their star acquisition Didier Drogba, the Montreal attack did everything but score as the home side poured it on after falling behind in the 13th minute.
With central defender Laurent Ciman sitting out a one-game suspension, the Impact started a young back line that was victimized early when Victor Cabrera mishandled a ball under pressure and Jairo Arrieta slid it to Rolfe, who went in alone and beat Evan Bush.
It was Rolfe's third goal in two games, having scored twice in a 6-4 win over Salt Lake last week. His ninth of the season tied his 2008 career high.
Montreal's attack ran into a stone wall in Hamid, the 2014 MLS 'keeper of the year who was in top form returning from a four-game absence with a hand injury.
Hamid stopped Andres Romero from close range twice and thwarted a Dominic Oduro attempt before the intermission.
There were more chances in the second half, including Johan Venegas bouncing a header just over the bar from a Marco Donadel corner kick in the 54th and Oduro being stopped again inside the area in the 73rd. Hamid made diving saves on Ignacio Piatti and Venegas late in the game.
With three games in an eight-day span, the Impact had regular starters Donny Toia, Dilly Duka and Calum Mallace on the bench. Fullback Eric Miller, Eric Alexander and Johan Venegas started, while Wandrille Lefevre filled in for Ciman. Duka subbed in for Alexander in the 65th.
Donadel was returning from a one-game suspension.
The game began with many among the 18,769 at Saputo Stadium chanting the name of sparingly used Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier, who has taken time away from the team to reflect on his future.
Venegas — a new signing — saw a second yellow card in as many MLS games when he was booked for protesting a foul call in the 45th.
The Impact are next in action at home Wednesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final. The second leg is Aug. 26 in Vancouver.
The Union play Thursday at New York City.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press