MONTREAL — Bill Hamid had not played in six weeks, but if anyone in MLS circles had forgotten his level of excellence and importance to D.C. United, his art of goalkeeping on display Saturday night at Saputo Stadium provided a thunderous reminder.
Hamid made one-on-one saves and diving gems. He went high and dropped low. He used his hands and feet.
In an otherwise lopsided affair, Hamid was the dominant figure as United defeated the Montreal Impact, 1-0, to extend its winning streak to three and retain a healthy lead atop the Eastern Conference.
Hamid tied a career high with eight saves to thwart a Montreal team that outshot United 25-1 (8-1 shots on goal), had a 10-3 advantage on corner kicks and claimed nearly 68 percent of possession.
To which D.C. midfielder Davy Arnaud said: “I think it says three points to zero, too. I don’t pay attention to the stats.”
A week after tying a club record with six goals, United (13-7-5) became the first team in MLS history to win with one shot.
“Bill was Bill,” Coach Ben Olsen said of the 2014 MLS goalkeeper of the year. “He bailed us out a few times.”
Chris Rolfe scored in the 13th minute, and Hamid did the rest in recording his seventh shutout in 17 starts.
“We always know he can make some big saves,” defender Taylor Kemp said. “There are certain ones where you think there is no way he is going to get there and he does.”
The news was not all good. Fabian Espindola , United’s most influential attacker, suffered a knee injury Friday and did not travel. He will undergo tests, and even if the injury is minor, he will miss Thursday’s match at New York City FC and perhaps additional games.
Espindola’s absence interrupted a blossoming partnership with newcomer Alvaro Saborio. But his replacement, Jairo Arrieta, did the dirty work leading to Rolfe’s goal.
Montreal (8-9-4) was without all-star center back Laurent Ciman (red card suspension) and newly acquired striker Didier Drogba. The former Chelsea superstar arrived last week but is working on fitness after a 2
Hamid made his first appearance since undergoing knee and hand surgery.
“It surprised me he was that sharp, but he’s a competitor and pushed his way back pretty quickly,” Olsen said. “I give him a lot of credit: He’s probably not 100 percent up to speed. He’s gutting it out.”
For the first time in three games, D.C. did not concede a goal in the opening moments. In fact, the early breakthrough came at the other end before 18,769 spectators.
Arrieta and Rolfe applied high pressure on Victor Cabrera about 40 yards from Montreal’s net. Arrieta attacked the ball, while Rolfe dashed into a gaping channel. Arrieta knocked it from Cabrera.
The ball spun toward Wandrille Lefevre, but Arrieta beat him to it with a sliding effort that doubled as a cross to Rolfe for a free run. Rolfe slotted a low shot into the left corner for his third goal in two games and ninth of the year, tying a career high.
“Unbelievable play,” Rolfe said of Arrieta’s effort. “We squeezed them with great pressure. The goal was all Jairo.”
The remainder of the half belonged to Hamid, who came under increasing duress against a fluid-passing opponent.
In the 20th minute, he got down quickly to deny Andres Romero’s angled effort. In the 34th, he rushed out as Romero gathered Eric Alexander’s through ball in an onside position penetrating the penalty area.
Romero picked out the right side. Hamid kicked out his left leg. Romero put his hands to his head in frustration and, perhaps, astonishment.
In the 44th minute, Dominic Oduro motored into the box. Hamid intervened. Shot stopped, lead preserved.
Montreal continued to dictate terms and manufactured dangerous situations off set pieces. Cabrera’s 10-yard downward header hopped over the crossbar, Oduro’s glancing header missed the far corner by a whisker and Lefevre’s no-look nod was off the mark.
After a D.C. giveaway at midfield, Ignacio Piatti launched Oduro for a partial breakaway. Hamid was not fazed, using his left foot to redirect the shot wide. In the 78th minute, Piatti’s blast was no match for Hamid’s reflexes.
Hamid was also fortunate: Eric Miller missed badly from 14 yards after a series of clever cutbacks, and the Impact was off target on other promising bids. There was more Hamid in the 85th minute — a diving stop on Johan Venegas.
“We rode our luck a few times,” Olsen said. “We weren’t at our sharpest, but we get our goal on the road, and Bill makes a few saves.”
Notes: Nick DeLeon left at halftime with muscle tightness. . . .
Sean Franklin and Chris Pontius, who made their first appearances in months, entered in the second half.