Drilling down on: D.C. United 2, at Toronto FC 0
Man of the Match: Chris Pontius’ first half work wasn’t rewarded with the opportunities he’s used to seeing this season. Moved back to start the second, the forward-cum-midfielder blasted United ahead just in the 52nd minute, and while that also meant the end of his day (he was soon subbed off), his fourth goal of the season was the takeaway moment from Saturday’s win.
Packaged for takeaway:
- The frustrations continue for Toronto, who lose at home against D.C.'s “we’re flying back cross-continent and haven’t been home in five days” team:
- Chris Korb started at left back;
- Lewis Neal got a start in left midfield;
- Daniel Woolard was pulled into center back; and
- Andy Najar got the call at right back.
- Aron Winter didn’t deploy a team ready to challenge that defense. Torsten Frings was back sweeping, and with Julian de Guzman sitting deep, the midfield was shorthanded. The formation played broken. As Luis Silva drifted high, Eric Avila was left to provide the link on this own.
- I can only imagine the stress selections are for Winter at this point, but this deployed played scared. It seemed disproportionately preoccupied with Maicon Santos (who, admittedly, was quiet) without worrying about how to get into attack.
- Toronto was still able to craft the best chance of the first half, testing Najar. In the 35th minute they found Astone Morgan on a long run behind Najar. The flaw in the plan: That left Ashtone Morgan to either craft a goal or a final ball. Neither came off.
- Perhaps Toronto could have tested Najar more often had they more control of play, but it’s not like D.C. United was doing much, either. While they had advantages in passes and possession, Milos Kocic had an easy first half, leading Ben Olsen to bring Branko Boskovic on at half and sacrifice Lewis Neal. Sucks when you actually have to use your designated players. (Hamdi Salihi would later come on and score.)
- The change looked a bit strange at first, as it pushed Dwayne De Rosario to forward, forcing Chris Pontius to left midfield. Pontius, however, just ran around and created havoc (which caused DeRo to drop and cover left mid at one point). It all paid off in the 52nd minute, when a ball from the right from Brandon McDonald found Pontius near the arc, the former Gaucho putting the winning goal into the upper-left corner from 21 yards.
- Toronto forced a couple of layouts from Bill Hamid and nearly pushed home a cross from Morgan, but after D.C. broke through, the loss seemed inevitable. They eventually brought Frings into midfield, helping in the middle-third (before he left with a right shoulder injury), but the changed team didn’t have time to break down D.C.'s defense before going down a second goal.
- Don’t scoff at this win just because it came against Toronto. D.C. United was able to make a number of changes on the road and still take three points. It’s the kind of result usually seen from teams competing at the top of their conferences, and while we may need to see this performance against a non-TFC team to be sure of D.C.'s staying power, this result is still a step forward.
- For Toronto, the takeaway will be eight games, eight losses, but this one is particularly disappointing. Coming off a big mid-week game in San Jose, D.C. took a chance and left a number of players out. Toronto, at home, should be able to take advantage of this - particularly against a team whose defense is still very much a question mark. Yet, they didn’t. They were kept off the scoresheet against a defense Ben Olsen would be remiss to start against most MLS teams. New low, low blow - I’m not sure which one it was; regardless, Toronto keeps falling.