This had the clear makings of a trap game for D.C. United. After scoring three or more goals in three straight games, including two wins over good Eastern Conference teams, a victory against the lowly and literally pointless Toronto FC seemed assured. We'd been looking forward to this game.
In previous years though, this may have been a game that would turn out more difficult than expected. In a way, it did. TFC was just starting to get healthy, and managed to keep the powerful D.C. attack off the scoreboard in the first half. But in the end, the better team prevailed.
Via goals for Chris Pontius (his sixth of the season) and Hamdi Salihi (his second straight game with a score), D.C. United defeated Toronto FC 2-0. The unexpected but not uncomposed back line of Andy Najar, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard, and Chris Korb shut down and shut out the TFC attackers to keep the clean sheet.
Many questioned the lineup choices of Ben Olsen today, but all those choices paid off. Najar did well in defense while also getting far forward when the opportunity was available, and Woolard looked far more comfortable in the middle than Robbie Russell had in the previous match (although the opponent should be considered).
The return of Bill Hamid to the starting lineup was also a significant move. Even though the big goalkeeper didn't have to make many highlight reel worthy saves, he had total control of his box for the entire match. There was never a question in my mind that he would be in the right position or make the right decision on a play. Doubts had started to register in our minds about Joe Willis after his past two games, but Hamid leaves us with no doubts. He's given up only one goal in two starts now for United, and that one goal came in stoppage time against the best team in the league.
Congratulations Hamid, you've earned your job back.
Out of the 11 games that D.C. United has played so far this year, five have been against clearly inferior (at that time) opponents - Dallas, New England, Montreal, New York, and now Toronto. United won four of those matches, and tied the fifth. 13 out of 15 possible points from those matches is a really good result. If the team can keep up that pace, the playoffs won't even be a question.
In the other six games, United is 1-3-2. That's slightly more concerning. That hints that United will be good enough to make the playoffs, but not go far once we're there.
Overall though, the team's record from those six games is not enough of a trend to predict future results, especially when you consider that two of the losses came in the first two games of the year, also known as Olsen's Extended Preseason.
The almost perfect results in the five games against inferior opponents though is hopefully a significant trend. Hopefully it implies that United will continue to punish inferior opponents.
Toronto will pay a visit to D.C. two weeks from today. That's when we'll determine if the trend can continue.