There was a time when anything less than three points from a trip to Toronto was considered a disappointment. That time has passed. Toronto’s new look is for real, but D.C. United, also with a new look, competed and showed encouraging signs in Saturday’s 1-0 loss.
This is not the view through the Black and Red glasses. United was close to getting a point from its trip north and against the backdrop of Toronto FC’s home opener it would have been a significant accomplishment. With its new star studded collection led by forward Jermain Defoe, this game was set up to be Toronto’s coming out party.
There was just one costly moment. Approaching the 60th minute Bill Hamid dived and saved Gilberto’s shot from the top of the box, but United failed to clear and Defoe seized on it and finished to break the deadlock. There is no consolation point for only losing by one, but unlike the season opening loss to Columbus, United competed.
"There are the things we worked on in the past few weeks and we implemented a lot of that. It was a day that things just didn’t fall our way in our offensive third and hopefully that will come. On their goal, we cleared the ball and it goes right to Defoe. I think we needed that little bit of luck today to get the result."
1. On defense United was much better. There was genuine cohesion on the back line and as a team United was able to keep its shape against a Toronto FC team under pressure to come to life with style and produce goals.
2. United also possessed the ball with purpose. In fact on a sloppy field United had a 62.8 to 37.2 percent advantage in possession. United also had the edge in passing accuracy. Still for all the well placed diagonal balls and hopeful crosses, United was missing a true connection in the attacking third.
3. United has to remain confident when it has the quality up top with Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola. Reputation alone will not produce goals, but Johnson and Espindola’s body of work separately suggests that once a relationship is further developed between them and the rest of the team, goals will come.
“Whether it’s the final ball or the final play, a lot of times when you lead teams that’s the last to come and the hardest part to do, putting the ball in the net. But that’s not an excuse; we got a find a way to do it. Other teams that are new and not yet gelling are doing it. So we got to find a way to add that to a lot of the positives we saw today, or defensive shape was better today, our commitment and aggressiveness were elevated. Hopefully we can score some goals this coming week.”