D.C. United had not won back to back games since 2009; they now have two sets of back to back wins in a single month. This game was all about the depth that United has built. It sounds like a cliché at this point, but its still true: this is a game that D.C. United would have underperformed in during the past two seasons. Through injuries prior to and during the game, they have been missing the wingers and forwards that brought them back after the slow start to the season. The back line has been missing the talisman that calmed them after that same slow start. Ben Olsen mentioned after the game that the team has been dealing with tired legs, but were able to gut through this performance. This is the type of game that teams who are challenging for the top of their conference win, and in a similar fashion.
This year they are able to not only grind out results, but still look good doing it. Players that we all expected to do well but didn't at the start of the season, like Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic, put their stamp on this game. Chris Korb continues to get better and better at right back, to the point that he may be a viable starter whenever Robbie Russell decides to hang it up or is no longer effective. This is the kind of game that United had to win to prove that they are among the top in the Eastern Conference, and they did just that. United are now on 24 points and could move into second if Sporting Kansas City's score stays tied.
D.C. started with the fourth fastest goal in club history, after only 57 seconds of play, off of a free kick by Branko Boskovic. Dwayne De Rosario was able to get free of his defender, who was marking him on the the opposite side from the free kick, and calmly put home the header. This is the kind of service that we expect and really demand from Boskovic, and he delivered. And while this free kick came while he was still on the left flank, after about fifteen minutes players switched positions. De Rosario moved up to striker, Boskovic moved into the center, and Josh Wolff moved out to left wing. After the game, Boskovic mentioned how he preferred playing in the center and felt move comfortable after he was moved there.
Even though United had 58% of the possession in the first half, it felt a much more frenetic affair, especially between the two goals. Toronto FC did not sit back and absorb pressure like they did in the previous matchup between the two teams, and they were making me nervous. And after 26 minutes, the hamstring bug struck again: Danny Cruz went down at a full sprint, clutching his hamstring. He still looked bad in the locker room after the game, and said that he felt something pop and then immediately went down. The only benefit to this happening now is the fact that United is about to enter their summer slowdown, which will give Cruz more time to heal between games. With Cruz out, Dejan Jakovic came in, shifting Korb, Najar, and Woolard back to their natural positions. And after Jakovic came in, the team seemed to settle back down. I should also mention that Daniel Woolard cannot be human. There is no way he is anything but a cyborg, and Ben Olsen called him one of the toughest players he has ever been around.
The second goal was a full team effort which just tears apart the Toronto defense. Dejan Jakovic played a long ball out of the back (but on the ground) which found Josh Wolff. Wolff turned and and put a slicing ball to Chris Korb, who then squared it into the penalty area. The ball found De Rosario, who was able to calmly slot it home. Wolff gets the hockey assist for a pass that was just as good as Korb's.
In the second half, Toronto continued to put the pressure on, eventually getting a deserved goal from Danny Koevermans. United's back line was playing for the offside trap off a free kick from midfield, but were beaten, allowing Koevermans to slot the ball home. While I was worrying that United might begin to crumple, they immediately responding. Andy Najar, who was magical all night and especially so once he was moved to midfield, beat two Toronto defenders to the line and crossed the ball to the waiting Hamdi Salihi, who poached and poachers poach home. This is what he was brought in to do. Salihi should have had another goal, on a counter by him and De Rosario, but Kocic was able to save it. In the last ten minutes, United was able to out possess Toronto and effectively kill off the game.
All and all, this was a solid performance by a team who has a solid amount of depth. These kinds of wins are expected, and this year D.C. United has started to live up to those expectations. What do you all think?