Preview: D.C. United vs. Toronto FC

Preview: D.C. United vs. Toronto FC
March 20, 2014, 6:45 pm
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(Paul Frederiksen/USA TODAY Sports)

The Toronto weather forecast for Saturday is cold with temperatures in the 30s and a 14mph wind off Lake Ontario to go with a rain and snow mix. It doesn’t matter. The reception is expected to be warm for Toronto FC after last Saturday’s result in Seattle.

This is D.C. United’s challenge.  The Black and Red’s winter of discontent, last season’s three-win campaign, was extended in a 3-0 loss to Columbus in week one. Toronto is buzzing after a 2-1 win on the road against the Sounders. There is real hope and belief in a city that has had the passion from day one for the Toronto FC franchise in 2007, but not the performance.

There are questions to be answered.  Is Toronto finally on the right path? Is D.C. United stuck or was the loss to the Crew just that—one loss?

United will play for three points, but to steal a point and run for the border is more than acceptable.

The challenge:

  1. D.C. United needs a better start. There are no excuses.  Columbus was the better team on opening night, but it didn’t help that United fell behind early and the game unraveled into a 3-0 loss. With addition of forward Jermaine Defoe, midfielder Michael Bradley, and goalkeeper Julio Cesar, this is the most eagerly anticipated opener for Toronto FC since the franchise’s first year in 2007. Toronto benefitted from an early lead last week against Seattle and then held on. United has to avoid a repeat of the Seattle scenario and spent the past two weeks working on what head coach Ben Olsen called “fixable stuff’. The opening 20 minutes of the match will be the time  for United to show how much has been repaired
  2. What needed to be fixed? There is not a short answer, but that is not to say there is a long list. The fix is more subtle. United needs to be connected on both offense and defense. A lack of pressure on defense in the opener against Columbus allowed the Crew too much time on the ball. Then when United won the ball there was not enough movement off the ball and rhythm on offense struggled to develop. It works both ways. Forwards Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola have too much quality and there relationship has to grow. If Johnson and Espindola can become more attack-oriented then it will  give United more possession and take pressure off United’s defense
  3. The midfield, as it often does, might tell the story in this game. Specifically how Luis Silva and Perry Kitchen do in the middle against Toronto’s Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio will be important.  Silva and Kitchen will have to push high and be aggressive to slow Toronto and give United possession.