DC United’s match tonight with Toronto FC started with a bang. In just the eighth minute of the match Eddie Johnson headed home a pass from Perry Kitchen to the delight of the home crowd. The goal was Johnson’s fourth on the year.
Kitchen took the ball deep to the touch line before sending it back to the center of the six yard box. Johnson clearly signaled to Kitchen before making his run in between two Toronto defenders and was already in the air to receive the pass, heading it home with ease. Johnson’s goal was a beautiful display of why Johnson was brought in to DC. Johnson showed his excellence in reading the play and his precision striking.
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid would keep DC United in the lead just one minute later when he stuffed a low shot from Toronto’s Luke Moore. Johnson had another chance at a goal in the 13th minute but was too hard on his first touch and Toronto’s Joe Bendik was able to get out for the save.
Toronto had difficulty keeping possession during the first half but they still managed to put together several runs resulting in shots on goal and Hamid had to come up big to keep United in front at the half, including a big save on Jermain Defoe in the 27th minute and Oduro in the 41st.
The second half started with better control from DC United. DC was less on their heels as their defense closed down many of the gaps that Toronto forwards had been exploiting throughout the first half.
In the 59th minute Chris Rolfe put DC up two with a blast pass Toronto goalie Bendik. DC United midfielder Nick DeLeon took the ball into the box and was taken down. It looked as if the ref was going to call for a penalty kick but when the ball fell right to Rolfe, the ref allowed the play to continue and Rolfe made the most of the continuance.
Toronto contributed to DC’s lead with an own goal in the 67th minute. Hamid’s eight saves preserved his clean sheet as DC United shut out Toronto and earned their third straight victory.
Two things really stood out to me in this game. The first is Bill Hamid is quickly becoming the best goalkeeper in MLS. I have stated previously that I believe that Hamid should be the one to succeed Tim Howard with the USMNT and a few more performances like tonight will only serve to bring more support to that thought. Hamid never appeared flustered during Toronto’s attacks and his defenders seemed to respond to his calm as they improved their positioning and closed off their gaps. Like Johnson on offense, Hamid was excellent in reading the play and was always in the right position.
The second thing is Toronto FC has problems. For several stretches in tonight’s match, Toronto looked to be the superior team but were simply unable to capitalize on their chances. Toronto was also unable to maintain any sense of superiority for a complete half, let alone the full 90 minutes. DC United played steady and efficiently and put together a much more complete game despite early troubles in the backline. Toronto foolishly seems to expect that Michael Bradley and Defoe will simply be able to out “star-power” the other team into victories. Clearly, that has not been working for them.
DC United certainly has star power but they seem to play without realizing it. United does not rely on any one player to push them to a victory. Whether it is Fabian Espindola and Johnson up top or Silva, Kitchen, and Rolfe in the midfield, United has plenty of offensive power throughout their lineup and they have distributed the scoring well this season.
Tonight’s game was a good example of just what type of team DC United has become this year. United absorbed the rush of Toronto without giving up a goal, they were very efficient with their scoring chances, and they played for a full 90 minutes. It was a good showing by DC tonight and one that leads you to believe they can make a good run at the MLS Cup.