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United earns valuable point after 0-0 draw in Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, June 27, 2015 – D.C. United toughed out a valuable point in difficult conditions this afternoon as they drew with Toronto FC 0-0 at BMO Field in front of a soggy partisan crowd. Heavy rains combined with a four game in ten day road journey for the Black-and-Red further complicated matters. However, United displayed their usual defensive shape and discipline and kept the home side to precious few opportunities thanks in part to a number of saves from Bill Hamid in goal.

The last time D.C. United (10-5-5, 35 points) faced Toronto FC (7-6-2, 23 points) they were undone by diminutive Italian striker Sebastian Giovinco who seemingly beat United by himself as he scored both goals in the 2-1 win at RFK earlier this month that snapped United’s 20-game unbeaten run at East Capitol Street. Today however Giovinco was not his normal MVP self as he seemed a touch off all game long, perhaps affected by the windy and rainy conditions.

Although United gave up most of the possession in the match, they created more chances to take the lead as a Luis Silva drive from 25-yards was parried away by TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka midway through the first half. United probably should have taken the lead on the ensuing corner kick when Nick DeLeon flashed wide open from 4 yards out in front of goal but his header went inexplicably wide of the goal.

Hamid was forced into a number of saves throughout the match but none were what you would consider terribly dangerous. In fact, Hamid has become so adept in his positioning, a perfect shot is the only thing that can beat him nowadays as he posted a second consecutive shutout. With United embarked in the middle of a the aforementioned crush of matches, head coach Ben Olsen once again shifted his lineup and put out what could be considered his best lineup considering the injury situations with Sean Franklin (tendinitis) and Chris Pontius (hamstring).

Even with the almost game-by-game changes enforced by the schedule, United continued to shine defensively and played toe-to-toe with arguably the best attack in the Eastern Conference with TFC. Steve Birnbaum had a particularly outstanding match, bouncing back from a series of matches since his ankle injury in April that have been less than stellar for the second year man. Taylor Kemp and Chris Korb aslo came back into the lineup and played well as both players were instrumental in breaking up more than a few dangerous chances.

United came into the match with a 10-point lead over the New England Revolution and a 12-point lead over TFC, though the hosts do have five games in hand. TFC’s job got a bit more difficult after today’s draw still leaving them 12 points clear. TFC will now have to play their next month’s worth of matches minus U.S. stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore and they will also be without Canadian players Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio.

As for United, they will move on to their fifth-round U.S. Open Cup tie with the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday night and then jetting off to Seattle to take on the Sounders on Friday night. Olsen will undoubtedly shift the lineup heavily once more for the Open Cup match with a more-than-decent chance of taking a rare win in Seattle as the hosts will be missing a slew of players including their two most dangerous ones in Clint Dempsey (Gold Cup) and Obefemi Martins (abductor strain).

 

DC travels to Toronto for tricky tilt

Red hot TFC hosts recently resurgent DC United with both teams coming off big wins over Eastern conference rivals in the mid-week.

League leading DC United extended their lead in the Supporter’s Shield race when they topped the abysmal Chicago Fire 1-0 on the road mid-week playing pretty much their B side, but DC will be looking for their A team to keep the ball rolling in Toronto. However, TFC might well be the most feared team in the league right now coming off a big time 3-1 rout of Montreal at home for their fourth win in their last five matches. A game in which Sebastion Giovinco furthered his argument for MLS MVP and which saw all three of their designated players score a goal for the first time in MLS history.

In the third of a wicked stretch of 5 matches in 12 days the last 4 of which are on the road, United coach Ben Olsen took the chance to rest a ton of his starters when facing the last place Fire in Chicago. The gamble paid off when the Fire played like a last place team allowing reserve Conor Doyle to strike a venomous volley to win it late in the match. Regular starters Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe, Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Taylor Kemp, and Chris Korb all were rested or played very little in Chicago which means those A players should all be available to start in Toronto. It appears Olsen will be without Sean Franklin and Chris Pontius again however.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney has had little of the same schedule congestion since they are long since bounced from the Canadian Championship (Canada’s version of the Open Cup), and having already endured a long stretch on the road while BMO field was revamped earlier this year. So while TFC is indeed at the end of 3 games in 8 days, it’s their first such stretch for them all season and all of those games have been at home to boot. Considering TFC is set to lose Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Osorio, and Ashtone Morgan for the Gold Cup, I have no doubt all of those guys play this last home game before they leave, especially as Vanney’s defense remains dinged up with projected starters Steven Caldwell and Mark Bloom still out as they have been most of the year.

With all that in mind, I think it very likely Olsen starts Espindola at forward and continues to tinker a little bit with a true 4-5-1 lineup that he has been using out of necessity lately, but might very well be a key to shutting down the explosive TFC as well as taking advantage of their relatively weak central defense. The makeup of that five man midfield should be interesting however. No question Chris Rolfe and Nick DeLeon start at the wide positions and it is equally certain that Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud will play centrally, but that third attacking midfielder/second forward slot is up in the air a bit. Team second leading scorer Jairo Arrieta has been starting quite a bit lately and should probably be considered an A player at this point, but he has to be gassed considering the minutes he’s played the past two weeks. As for Luis Silva, the only thing he has shown coming back from injury lately is his inability to play midfield at all, or even be very effective as a second forward, so I doubt he starts either. I think Olsen pulled Facundo Coria first from the Fire match with the idea he starts underneath Espindola in this match as the point man of that central midfield trio.

Starting in DC’s defense will almost certainly be Kemp and Korb bookending Kofi Opare and either Bobby Boswell or Steve Birnbaum. I think Birnbaum gets the nod both to keep the aging Boswell from playing on that turf and giving him some rare time off, but also to give a boost in confidence to Birnbaum who has been taking one for the team lately playing out of position as right or left back. Birnbaum is a competent defender no doubt about it, but he has not looked comfortable playing a wide role and he deserves a vote of confidence by playing him in his natural role in the center. Opare almost has to start given the speed and physicality of Altidore, and Luke Moore as well should he play. Birnbaum is a good complement to him especially in the air to combat the long balls and crosses TFC like to put into the box. Boswell could do it too of course, but Birnbaum has that bit of still youthful athleticism over Boswell’s smarts. Of course none of that matters if Bill Hamid in goal keeps dismissively slapping away shots like a water buffalo twitching away flies on the Serengeti.

TFC will use a 4-4-1-1 similar to the formation they used to break DC’s long home unbeaten streak three weeks ago, but this time Bradley will be available and Altidore will be healthy. Altidore almost certainly starts at forward with Giovinco in that second forward role. Osorio, Benoit Cheyrou, Bradley, and likely Warren Crevalle should start left to right across midfield for the Reds. Possibly Vanney uses Jackson instead of Crevalle to be more dynamic in the attack, or even Collen Warner to be more defensive, but I think those options will be used off the bench depending on the situation. Morgan, Eriq Zavaleta, Damien Perquis, and Justin Morrow should be the defense going left to right in front of goalkeeper Chris Konopka.

So. Looking at the matchups and styles, DC has their work cut out for them even if their A players bring their A game. DC’s five man midfield should go a long way toward shutting down Giovinco who killed them in that loss earlier this year as well as providing some cover for DC’s wing backs Korb and Kemp who can get caught out from time to time. In particular Rolfe has shown the endline to endline effectiveness Olsen demands from his wide players and he should be matched up with Osorio both to negate the Canadian’s attacks, but also to force him to defend which he doesn’t really want to do. DeLeon has been the second best wide midfielder for DC this year. Not as dynamic or precise in the attack as Rolfe, nor as timely or consistent in defense either, but he is active on both sides of the ball and will pop up in the attack from time to time, as well as get in the way defensively if nothing else. Certainly enough to outplay Crevalle and hold his own against Jackson or the teeth rattler Warner.

But this game will be decided right down the center of the field. Opare and Birnbaum or Boswell can certainly handle Altidore at least as well as anyone in the league can handle the best forward America has right now, especially if Arnaud, Kitchen, and Coria can maintain some sort of control over Giovinco, Cheyrou and Bradley. Admittedly that’s a tall task, but DC has shown they can be stingy so it’s possible. Still, no matter what, you gotta figure those guys get one at minimum and two goals more likely, so DC has to figure to score at least two to pinch a draw.

Which is where Espindola, Rolfe and the clever Coria come in going against TFC’s suspect defense. Perquis and Zavaleta scare no attacker in the league and Espy is easily wily enough to force a mistake or punish a missed assignment from either of them all by himself. But if Rolfe and Coria can combine with him often enough to keep Bradley way back defending, it helps DC’s defense as well as maybe turns possession in DC’s favor which will allow Kemp and DeLeon to pressure Morrow and Morgan respectively, DC might well get those two goals they will need. Cheyrou bossed the midfield and didn’t allow that from DC last time, but Coria could be the wild card in this one. Definitely a tough task and maybe even unlikely to boot, but certainly possible.

Which is good because the intangibles don’t favor DC at all unless you consider ancient history or hope the soccer gods get involved. As mentioned, TFC is hot coming off their fourth win in the last five matches, but they have also won three of their last four at home, two out of the last three by 3-1 scorelines. TFC is a respectable 3-2-0 at home having outscored visitors 8-6 altogether in those 5 matches and only being shut out once. TFC did lose 0-2 to NYCFC at home recently, but an early PK in that game, a lack of Altidore for most of the match, and a mighty performance by Josh Saunders in the nets for NYC had a lot to do with that. Also, while DC did eek out that win in Chicago, they remain 3-4-1 on the road having only scored 5 goals and given up 7 in those 8 matches. DC is 12-7-3 all-time versus TFC and 7-4-0 in BMO field, but most of that came in the early bad old days of TFC. DC has lost to TFC 1-2 earlier this year, and lost 1-2 last time they visited BMO field as well. The last visit before that in 2013, a C team got crushed 1-4 in Toronto three days before DC won the US Open Cup title in Salt Lake.

So, there you have it. Toronto should be favored for sure, but DC has shown they are a tough out and can grind out points in tough spots, especially if Hamid puts on his cape, so maybe a draw is within reach in this one. DC’s has seen red cards in Vancouver and NE boost them to four unlikely points on the road. They have seen stunning goals from out of the blue in Orlando and Chicago scrape out wins in games against weaker opponents. But they have also squandered points in Orlando, Portland, Philly, and got thumped in NY. All those games they kept tight however, and at least once a year DC drops a 0-3 clanger somewhere on the road and I can’t help thinking this will be it. Usually, the clanger comes in Seattle, LA, RSL or someplace else in the West, a 2-5 loss in SJ comes to mind as well. But every once in a while it comes in the East. Chicago, Columbus, even Houston when they were in the East have all dropped big ones on DC. United has yet to really lay an egg on the road this year and despite the A team, I think this might well be it.

Still, with a four point cushion on Seattle and Vancouver, even a loss keeps DC in the league lead until at least next week (but the Sounders and ‘Caps both have two games in hand), and DC holds an even tighter grip on the East with a 10 point lead on NE (who have one game in hand). However, every team in the East holds games in hand on DC, who have played more games than anyone in the league. Toronto holds a whopping five games in hand and Montreal a mind boggling six games for example.

Sebastian Giovinco, TFC, End United’s RFK Streak With 2-1 Win: Match Gallery

DC United’s 20 game unbeaten streak at RFK came to an end at the hands of Sebastian Giovinco and Toronto FC. TFC defeated the Black-and-Red 2-1 in front of 17,105 fans at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Photos: Martin Fernandez.

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Sebastian Giovinco (right) scored a pair of highlight-reel goals to lead Toronto FC to a 2-1 win over D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium before a season-high 17, 105 disappointed fans. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United’s 20-game unbeaten run at RFK ends with 2-1 loss to Toronto FC

Washington D.C., June 6, 2015 – Sebastian Giovinco (right) scored a pair of highlight-reel goals to lead Toronto FC to a 2-1 win over D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium before a season-high 17, 105 disappointed fans. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

The loss for United (8-4-4, 28 points) was their first at RFK since dropping a 1-0 decision to the Seattle Sounders on June 28th of last season, nearly a full calendar year. Toronto (6-5-1, 19 points) came into the match missing two of it’s high-priced Designated Players in Michael Bradley (away on International duty with U.S.) and Jozy Altidore (injured but made a late game appearance) but it was the third and arguably most talented of the trio that did the damage tonight.

United turned the tables on their recent form of starting matches slow out of the gate and should have been up 2-0 inside the first six minutes of the match. Fabian Espindola’s 22-yard angled chip to the far post easily eluded TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka but hit the post and bounded away. However, just a minute later United were ahead thanks once again to Espindola. His corner kick was volleyed into the net from six yards by defender Steve Birngbaum for his first-ever MLS goal and the early 1-0 lead.

That was pretty much the extent of United’s danger on the night. Toronto quickly regained the tempo and took it to the Black-and-Red and if not for a number of good saves from Andrew Dykstra (filling in for a hobbled Bill Hamid for a second straight match) the match could have gotten quickly out of hand. It was the “Atomic Ant” Giovinco who ultimately would be the difference. Right from the start United didn’t seem to have anyone capable of shutting down the diminutive Italian forward.

Giovinco leveled the match in the 34th minute when he received a pass deep inside United’s penalty area. Sean Franklin quickly got in position to defend him, or so we were lead to believe, but he was easily spun out of position and Giovinco fired just past the head of Dykstra from a tough angle for his sixth goal of the season.

After the break United regained control of the match but as has been the case for most of the season, United struggled to break down TFC’s compact defense. The final ball was severely lacking all game long as United didn’t even register a shot on goal for the second half of play despite dominating possession. TFC took a page from United’s recent playbook in coming from behind and winning when Giovinco scored a stunning game-winning goal in the 83rd minute. A very lazy turnover from substitute Luis Silva just inside United’s half of the field powered the counter attack for the winning strike. Midfielder Benoit Cheyrou easily dispossessed Silva and spotted Giovinco who turned and ran directly at United’s goal. With Bobby Boswell in retreat Giovinco unleashed a 30-yard blast the easily beat Dykstra to give the visitors the shock 2-1 lead.

United did put forth a decent effort to try and get the equalizer and they should have had it in the 90th minute but could not come up with the final touch to get it done. Goalkeeper Chris Konopka came out to challenge Birnbaum on a free kick and whiffed on the clearance. The loose ball fell right to Silva who’s rushed angled attempt failed badly. The ball fell into the path of Davy Arnaud who took a settling touch but his left-footed attempt to strike also whiffed and United was out of chances after that as the visitors easily killed off the remainder of stoppage time.

United has now ended their most brutal string of games they had to play this season in a 7-games in 25-day stretch. With constant shuffling of the lineups due to injury, short rest and suspensions, United actually managed to increase their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference but will look at tonight’s match against a weakened TFC as an opportunity lost to increase their lead.

United now will finally have a full week of training ahead of their match a week from Sunday in Orlando against the Lions. This match will be televised live on FoxSports1 at 7pm EST.

 

DC hosts Toronto FC

DC United, riding a team record 20 game home unbeaten streak hosts TFC, who is undefeated in their last three on the road and is even hotter than the best team in the East.

DC United is cruising away with the Eastern Conference at the moment, but the hottest team in the East could very well be Toronto FC who have 13 points in their last 5 games while DC has garnered a mere 10 in the same span despite a home winning streak. It really is a tale of two cities as DC has played 9 of their 15 at home where they have yet to lose in almost a year, while TFC have played 8 of 11 on the road including their first 7 on the road while their home stadium was renovated. However, after a rough stretch early on, Toronto is undefeated in their last 3 on the road and facing a DC team that has seemingly forgot how to lose in fortress RFK.

OK, so here is where I usually discuss who is missing and why they are important, but you know what, apparently it is not important. I don’t know what deals DC coach Ben Olsen has made with the devil, but he apparently can’t lose in RFK no matter what lineup he trots out there. A center back as left back, your most dangerous player suspended, forwards as midfielders, midfielders as forwards, backup goalkeepers at the last minute, playing three holding central midfielders together, etc. Not to even mention the still extensive injury list. Doesn’t matter, apparently DC will find a way, even if it means the soccer gods have to pony up a PK to make it happen like they did against Philly.

First of all, let me say I have been pretty hard on Olsen for his player management and tactics so far this season, but there is no denying the fact this team is night and day different when Fabian Espindola is on the field. All of a sudden, DC’s attack has teeth when Espy is on the field when it is pretty much gumming their food without him. Olsen has had him for three games and he’s had 1 goal and 2 assists and got an opponent sent off in those three games, all of them wins. Without him, it has been scoring by committee, Arrieta first, then Pontius when he broke down, Rolfe picked up when Pontius folded, Kitchen even tossed his hat in the ring for a game, now back to Arrieta, but Espy was the straw stirring the drink in his goals in the 3-1 win against Chicago last time out.

What I would say in my defense is that hopefully Olsen has noticed that Arrieta is very crafty and needs a crafty guy to work with, that Conor Doyle is not a forward and should play in midfield, that Miguel Aguilar is not a left mid, that Nick DeLeon might well be a better forward option than a starting midfielder, and most important of all that he has options tactically with this team if he uses guys in ways that highlight their strengths and hide their weaknesses. Doyle case in point. The guy is not a forward. Doesn’t stretch the defense, not particularly physically gifted or deadly in the box to warrant playing him up top, but whoa nelly, his work rate and first time passing ability is killer in midfield. I have been killing DC players who dribble head down into turnovers, but Doyle hits a first time ball damn near every time and connects on most of them. However, even if he doesn’t connect he scares the bejeezus out of defenders because he does it all the time. Defenders love to defend dribblers in MLS. There’s no Messi’s out there. Nobody is all that scary off the dribble, but hit quick passes regularly and you get every defenders attention right quick.

DeLeon is an active guy in the sense he defends like the old saying about a lazy dog, “well a burglar might well twist an ankle stepping over him”. However he attacks like the dickens, which in midfield more often than not means dribbling into trouble. As a forward though, he stretches defenses in a way Doyle will never do and is crafty enough to work with guys like Espy, Arrieta and Rolfe and even better get behind defenses to put the fear of god into them opening room for others to come in underneath. Aguilar on the left, dribbles into the defense and often into trouble much to the relief of the opposing right back. On the right he stretches people and terrifies the left back who has no help except the sideline. But Espy is the straw that stirs the drink. He can create absolute havoc all by his lonesome that nobody in MLS wants to defend and I will go so far as to say that as long as DC has Espindola and Hamid, Olsen will be in the running for coach of the year.

OK, so if we are discounting whoever Olsen starts because we know they will do the job, then let’s see what TFC is planning to do to DC in RFK. Toronto normally plays a 4-5-1 hybrid where Sebastian Giovinco plays so high up it could be a 4-4-2, but without Jozy Altidore who is out injured and who stays high, Luke Moore and Giovinco will alternate pressure and it really is a 4-5-1, especially as Michael Bradley will be out after beating Holland with the Nats today. Look for Warren Crevalle, who scored a goal last time out versus San Jose to slide inside to a holding role while former Dallas attacker Jackson pulls the wide right duty.

So, TFC will likely play Moore as a lone forward with Giovinco playing very close underneath and not defending much if at all. In midfield, I expect they will play Jackson, Crevalle, Benoit Cheyrou, and Jonathan Osorio right to left. In defense, they will almost certainly play Ashtone Morgan, Damon Perquis, and Justin Morrow in the back, but who will pair with Perquis in the middle is interesting. Eriq Zavaleta maybe perhaps earned it with his play of late, but Nick Hagglund is now healthy to help reinstate Tornoto’s devastated central defense.

Giovinco has a goal or an assist in 9 of 11 games he’s played in this year and the fact TFC has only played 11 games to DC’s 15 it is important to note. Anyway, he is obviously the danger man, and I gotta mention in the old Ben Olsen rabbit’s foot category, if Jozy was playing in this game; uh yeah, DC not favored except for home form that is almost like black magic. But, like LA earlier this year, DC catches a break and won’t face Jozy and the Ant.

Be that as it may, TFC will seek to flood Giovinco with the ball centrally to let his magic open up DC. Now, DC should be able to block that with any combination of Kitchen, Halsti or Arnaud. So TFC coach Greg Vanney should be looking to exploit some issues on the outsides of DC’s defense. The wildly attacking Jackson and the very under-rated Osorio could cause lots of problems for Kemp, Korb, Birnbaum or whoever on the left side of defense, as well as Franklin or whoever on the right.

With that in mind, and assuming Kemp and Korb are out again, Birnbaum is interestingly a good option out wide left. He won’t get beat down the line or inside, he is a threat on set pieces, and he’ll make some noises on offense at least as good as Korb when DC has sustained pressure forward. With Franklin on the right, then DC should be able to button up shop and make it tough for TFC to score.

On the offensive side, TFC is vulnerable down the middle in central defense, and out wide with Jackson and Osorio who defend like they are forced to scrape something off their shoe after a walk in the dog park. Don’t get me wrong, both are fast and physical, but neither really stands up an attacker. Guys like Rolfe, DeLeon, and Coria all have good shots to best them and steam in straight at Morrow and Morgan as outside backs, neither of which are all that frightening either. If DC can hold TFC defenders back on their heels for any length of time, crafty guys like Espy, Arrieta, et al. will score.

Given TFC’s history, even the intangibles favor DC despite the current records being a bit skewed. DC has only 10 point in their last 5 games while TFC has 13 over the same span, and TFC has also gone 2-0-1 in their last three on the road, but DC has gone 6-0-3 at home so far this year and hasn’t lost in RFK since last June. However, it’s important to note DC has played 9 of 15 at home heading into this one while TFC has played 8 of 11 on the road. DC owns the all time record versus TFC at 12-6-3 and the record in RFK against TFC at 5-2-3. DC also hasn’t lost to TFC since

So there you have it, DC should win and probably will avoid a loss, but you never know. The referee is Jair Marrufo and I’ll just leave it at that.

United rolls to fourth win in a row in 3-0 defeat over Toronto FC

Eddie Johnson’s third goal in as many games staked D.C. United to an early lead on their way to an impressive 3-0 thrashing of Toronto FC tonight at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

United (11-5-4, 37 points) pulled within a point of Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders for the top spot in MLS. The win is their fourth in a row and fifth in six matches. The result also extended United’s lead over third-place TFC to 11 points.

Chris Rolfe added his fourth goal of the year early in the second half followed by an own-goal from TFC defender Nick Hagglund as he headed into his own net after a dazzling run through the entire back line by Nick DeLeon to set up the goal.

This game was a track meet from the opening whistle. TFC midfielder Dominic Oduro was in alone on goal in the 4th minute but shot just wide of Bill Hamid’s far post. Hamid’s positioning would be a major factor all night as he generated seven saves in the first half to keep United in the lead.

United took the lead in the eighth minute when Perry Kitchen’s lofted chip from the right side of the penalty area met Johnson at the far post who easily nodded past TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik.

After the break United busted the game open thanks in part to a rare non-call from a referee that doubled United’s lead. On the hour mark, DeLeon made the first of two amazing runs through the TFC defense and pulled a cut-back move that forced TFC defender Warren Creavale to haul down DeLeon in the penalty area. However, match referee Chris Penso did well to play advantage as Rolfe picked up the loose ball and easily beat Bendik to the near post.

DeLeon crushed any residual  hopes for a TFC comeback  just seven minutes later when he ghosted past two TFC defenders and was in alone on Bendik. The TFC keeper did well to deflect DeLeon’s bid but Hagglund’s momentum in getting back to cover the goal line caused a moment of confusion and the rookie inadvertently headed into his own net for the final goal.

United now will turn their attention to Sunday night’s match in Houston. Houston has been a House of Horrors to United historically as the team has never won a game either at the old Robertson Stadium or the recently erected BBVA Compass Stadium. United has only managed a pair of draws lifetime in the state of Texas against the Dynamo.

Sunday’s game will be shown locally on Comcast SportsNet at 8pm EST.

Hamid comes up big as United take 2-1 win in Toronto

Bill Hamid’s last-second reflex save on Daniel Lovitz’ angled shot helped preserve a huge 2-1 win for D.C. United over Toronto FC tonight in Toronto, Ontario.

The win for United (8-5-4, 28 points) is their third road win of the season and more importantly it puts United back in first place in the Eastern Conference as they await Sporting Kansas City’s result tomorrow afternoon when they host the cellar-dwelling Chicago Fire.

Nick DeLeon’s second goal of the season opened the scoring in the 54th minute against the run of play as United had been second-best all night long. After the first forty-five minutes saw United defending in numbers and turning the ball over too easily, they decided to take a more aggressive approach and apply high pressure and it paid off for the Black-and-Red.

United’s high pressure forced a turnover and Luis Silva’s toe-poke set DeLeon off towards goal. DeLeon did well to keep TFC defender Nick Hagglund on his outside shoulder as he barreled towards goal with the ball. As he entered the penalty area, DeLeon spun TFC defender Collen Warren into the ground and unleashed a left-footed shot that squeezed between TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik and defender Steven Caldwell.

Up to that point DeLeon was more of a hindrance to United’s play rather than a factor, mirroring many of the issues that plagued United through the first fifty minutes of the match.

United’s lead did not last long however as the home side equalized in the 60th minute. With United under heavy pressure, a shot from TFC midfielder Jackson was on goal and Hamid made the save but couldn’t handle it cleanly as United were very slow to react to the rebound and Luke Moore tucked the ball for his third goal of the season.

Undaunted though, United struck back in the 69th minute and got the game-winner thanks to a Perry Kitchen header off of a corner kick. Kitchen was unmarked in the middle of the goal box and simply headed the ball down after very accurate service from substitute Lewis Neal.

With the new found lead, United pulled back and defended well over the final twenty minutes and actually went ahead a man when Hagglund was red-carded for his pulling down of Eddie Johnson on a breakaway. Initially referee Jeff Gantar only issued a yellow card to Hagglund but after consultation with the fourth official and his far sideline assistant, Gantar “upgraded” the foul to a red card offense.

United seemed relatively comfortable playing out the final minutes but not without one more heart-pounding moment at the death of the match. In the 95th minute Kitchen made a routine clearance that resulted in a TFC throw-in at midfield. With only seconds remaining a last ditch ball was curled over everyone to the far post where TFC defender Daniel Lovitz was crashing in on goal. Lovitz’ one-time shot was struck goal bound with venom but Hamid seemed to come from out of nowhere to make a dazzling save to preserve the win for United.

United now will savor this rather unexpected result and prepare for a match in San Jose next Friday night at 11pm EST. This match will be shown nationally on the NBCSportsNetwork.

United listless in 1-0 loss to Toronto FC

Jermain Defoe’s third goal in only his second start for Toronto FC was just enough in their 1-0 win over D.C. United today at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada.

United, who set records for futility in scoring goals in last seasons nightmare campaign, was shut out for the second time in as many games and could only bother to muster one shot on goal for the second consecutive match. Head coach Ben Olsen has preached patience with his rebuilt squad but that plea is already beginning to wear a bit thin..

United improved their performance overall from their opening match against Columbus but it was hard not to improve from that quite frankly. United stood toe-to-toe with the likewise rebuilt TFC and could have been behind if not for the heroics of Bill Hamid in goal. Hamid made three separate stunning saves on Defoe in the first forty five minutes but was undone by a poor clearance in the 60th minute.

Michael Bradley, one of the other heralded DP signings in TFC’s off-season, sent a beautiful pass over the United defense to Toronto’s third DP in Gilberto. The Brazilian took one touch and forced a great save again from Hamid. Bobby Boswell cleaned up the rebound but his clearing attempt went straight into the path of Defoe and the Englishmen scored between the legs of Sean Franklin to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

After the goal United finally started to put some passes together to attempt to breach Toronto’s defense but the shoddy condition of the field and quite honestly the poor decision making by a number of United players contributed to their listless performance as they hardly put forth any threatening opportunities.

It’s back to the drawing board for Olsen and his team as they welcome in the Chicago Fire next Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm. The match will be shown live on the NBCSports Network.