Late Drama as United top Toronto in wild first game

A wild night in Buzzard Point culminated in a D.C. United win to start the 2023 season. Christian Benteke and Ted Ku-Dipietro each netted goals beyond the 89th minute in the 3-2 victory over Toronto FC.

No Taxi?

When the starting lineup was announced, it was revealed that Taxi Fountas was unavailable due to a hamstring injury. This forced head coach Wayne Rooney to start a pair of strikers up front, selecting Benteke and Nigel Robertha.

Using a 4-4-2 formation, Rooney also tabbed 16-year-old Matai Akinmboni to start alongside Victor Palsson at center back. Despite an error that led to a Toronto PK, Akinmboni had a strong performance and showed that the DCU academy is still strong.

Problems in transition

The biggest concern through the first 60 minutes was D.C.’s midfielders struggling to link up with the strikers. Far too often, crosses from the wing and through balls from the midfield failed to connect with either Benteke or Robertha.

However, United’s opening goal came from the midfield itself. New arrival Mateusz Klich made his debut in the Black-and-Red memorable. Klich gained possession around midfield, and was given ample space to press forward.

Taking advantage of that space, Klich fired a low screamer that beat Sean Johnson’s outstretched right hand in the 13th minute. With numerous offseason questions regarding how these older European stars would transition to MLS, Klich’s performance is easing any concerns D.C. fans might have.

Impressive goalkeeping

In the first game of the post-Bill Hamid era, Tyler Miller played very well in his D.C. United debut. Sporting the #1 kit, and with Hamid in attendance, Miller’s balance of aggression and positioning was a sight to see.

Miller can be exonerated of both of Toronto’s goals. The first came on a PK from Frederico Bernardeschi, who opted to go down the middle as Miller dove to his left.

The second was a brutal rebound off of the post from a Bernardeschi free kick. Miller read the free kick well, but the bounce off the right post fell right to the foot of Mark-Anthony Kaye.

Overall, Miller has a strong outing and should be given the start against Columbus next week.

Ted the Super Sub

During the preseason, Ted Ku-Dipietro shined bright when Rooney played him up top. It appeared that Rooney would give him opportunities early in the season.

Ku-Dipietro was given that opportunity when he was subbed on for Robertha in the 67th minute. After a few minutes to settle into the pace of the game, Ku-Dipietro helped spark a different DCU counter attack.

Assisting Benteke’s tying goal in the 90th minute was just the beginning of the TKD show. To score the winning goal in the final seconds of the game shows confidence in one’s abilities. Coupled with his preseason performance, we may be seeing the emergence of the next great young United star.

Four Stars of the Game

Throughout the season, I will be assigning four stars from the game (a nod to DCU’s four MLS championships).

1st Star: Ted Ku-Dipietro

Hard to not pick him. Game-tying assist followed by the game-winning goal in a span of eight minutes? Yeah, he’s the MOTM.

2nd Star: Andy Najar

All night, Najar kept Toronto’s wingers in check. Starting with Lorenzo Insigne, and then with Ayo Akinola, Najar played stout defense, and displayed excellent vision on counter attacks.

3rd Star: Matuesz Klich

You could tell from the start of the game that Klich was going to be a force. Whether the early goal from distance, or his ability to spread the ball around, Klich showed why he’s a key player to United’s 2023 success

4th Star: Christian Benteke

Despite his struggles in the first half, Benteke found his footing in the latter 45. You could see the difference in pace and poise from Benteke in the final 30 minutes, as evidenced from his tying goal.

Next Game

The first road game of the season is next Saturday, March 4 at the Columbus Crew. Kickoff is at 7:30.

Please follow and like us:

You may also like...

Follow by Email