For DC United, it was busy. A stretch of five games that started on May 23rd and spanned over two week produced positive results and positive signs, but ended on Saturday with a disappointing 2-1 loss to Toronto FC.
The visitors from Canada were the better team on the night and ended the Black and Red’s franchise home unbeaten streak at twenty games. Michael Bradley is away with the United States Men’s National Team and Jozy Altidore did not come on until the second half, but Sebastian Giovinco, the reigning MLS Player of the Week, put in a bid for repeat honors by scoring two spectacular goals.
“It’s pretty simple, we went in to the game trying to limit [Sebastian] Giovinco’s influence and that didn’t go so well. But, he’s a special player. We are going to come up against very good players in this League and he’s certainly at the top of that list. On any given day he can do what he did today. He’s a difference maker.”
United ended up losing after finally getting off to a better start. In the six games leading up to Saturday United had conceded the first goal including twice in the opening five minutes of matches. Against Toronto United was assertive from the opening kick and in the 6th minute earned a corner kick perfectly taken by Fabian Espindola and then finished by Steve Birnbaum for his first career goal.
- United has depth. Dealing with injuries and the busy schedule United did not flinch and produced a respectable 2-2-1 record. More importantly United maintained possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. Portland and Toronto had better games in United’s two losses, but the Black and Red had chances to either win those games or secure draws. Credit must be given to head coach Ben Olsen for managing for roster over the last two weeks. Five different starting lineups were used by United and 19 different players featured in the first elevens of the last five games. Conor Doyle impressed during the stretch with his ability to play on the flank or up top and he scored his first MLS goal in two years. Goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra turned in some of his best work of his United career over the last two games. Newcomers Facundo Coria and Markus Halsti also showed promise with contributions over the last two weeks.
- Toronto will make the playoffs. Excluding this year’s expansion teams, Toronto FC is the only MLS team never to have qualified for the playoffs. The Reds have the fan support and the front office has spent the money. It hasn’t worked. Now it is different and it is more than just Sebastian Giovinco. Make no mistake Giovinco is special and the right kind of designated player addition, but this team is more organized and has more steel on defense than previous editions of TFC. In the past Toronto has been able to attack, but also find ways to lose games. Now TFC looks like it has what it takes on the defensive end and that will be important with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore set to miss time this summer for the Gold Cup.