When Hamdi Salihi scored his first MLS goal on Wednesday night, I described his finish as "far more difficult than evident at first glance." That wasn't true about his goal on Saturday against Toronto FC. Salihi's goal was exactly as difficult as it looked. A leaping horizontal scissor kick into the far side netting? Yes please! Try it again and we'll trademark it as the Hamdi!
D.C. United didn't have many options at central defense. Three of the team's top four center backs were out injured. The normal emergency replacement is 32 years old and just played 90 minutes earlier in the week. So to partner with Brandon McDonald, Ben Olsen turned to left back Daniel Woolard, and he wouldn't regret it. Woolard and McDonald ensured that no TFC attacker went unmarked in the box. They won all their aerial challenges, and forced Toronto to take low-percentage long-distance shots only, all of which Bill Hamid was capable of handling. Hamid proved why he was considered the undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper in preseason, and why he soon will be again.
It was quite refreshing seeing the quantity and quality of work that Perry Kitchen put in on Saturday night. After his entirely underwhelming performance in central defense during the midweek match against the San Jose Earthquakes, it was a relief for all involved to see Kitchen come right back with the steady and improving performance we've gotten used to seeing from him in central midfield. Kitchen was great, moving all over the field to shut down Toronto attacks before they developed, and controlling the midfield with apparent ease.
After a fairly vacant first half from Chris Pontius, the forward who was converted to a midfielder and is now excelling again as a forward delivered the strike that put United in front for good. Pontius wasn't given a whole lot of space to operate throughout the match as TFC adopted an unexpectedly defensive mentality, but when the space was finally there for the taking, CP13 took it, and his big left foot was ready. Pontius sent the ball hard into the far upper corner of the net, and United didn't look back.
If you had told me before the season that Andy Najar and Chris Korb would start a game together on the outside of the back line, I'd have been worried that Russell and Woolard each went down either. But neither are injured. Their replacements held things down quite well. TFC likes to attack on the wings, but Najar and Korb held their ground.
We've been used to United players lighting up their former teams recently. We saw it from Maicon Santos against FC Dallas. And we saw it all last year (and the past two weeks) from Dwayne De Rosario. That didn't quite happen in this match, as Santos and De Rosario went without scoring, or creating many dangerous opportunities. We set the over/under for goals by De Rosario against Toronto in the month of May at 2.5. If you took the under you're in great shape. Unless of course DeRo chooses to strike a hat trick a week from Saturday in D.C. I certainly wouldn't put it past him...