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D.C. United throw away big lead, settle for 4-4 tie against Toronto FC

The wildest game of the year left United to bring just one point home from Canada

D.C. United raced out to a three-goal halftime lead on Wednesday night against Toronto FC, but came away with just one point in a spectacular 4-4 draw. Just before stoppage time, Yamil Asad looked to give United all three points, with his second goal of the game. But there was still time for Nick Hagglund to split the spoils, as the towering center back scored his second of the game in the 92nd minute.

Goals from Asad, Paul Arriola, and Darren Mattocks had United flying high in the first half. But Toronto came out in fifth gear to start the second half, and by the 64th minute, Jonathan Osorio and Victor Vazquez had the Reds within a goal. The equalizer came in the 86th minute, from a header by Hagglund. But the last four minutes and then stoppage time still had just as much drama as the first 86 minutes.

Head coach Ben Olsen made just one change to the starting lineup that lost 2-1 on Saturday to the Seattle Sounders. Chris Durkin made his way back into the starting lineup, while Junior Moreno was on the bench, a move that Olsen indicated would happen on Saturday.

Toronto came out strong early on, with Vazquez poking wide in the 4th minute, and Sebastian Giovinco having a shot saved by David Ousted moments later. Nicolas Hasler nearly rounded Ousted in the 6th minute, but the Danish keeper forced Hasler wide, ending the opportunity for TFC.

But with their first chance of the game, United took a surprising lead, in the 12th minute. A pass from Oniel Fisher in the attacking half found Arriola, who quickly played forward to Luciano Acosta. Mattocks made a run that drew two defenders, opening up space for Asad, and Acosta teed up his countryman to strike for his fourth goal of the season.

Toronto had a couple of shouts for a penalty in from a corner kick, but with those waved off in the 17th minute, Zoltan Stieber picked up the ball in D.C.‘s box and quickly broke the other way. Unobstructed on the entirety of his run, the Hungarian eventually picked a cross out for Arriola in the box. The cross was a bit behind Arriola, but the winger was able to contort backwards and direct his header past Alex Bono for the 2-0 lead.

Toronto tried to apply some pressure on United as the half wore on, but it was the visitors who continued to have the chances, in a half they would dominate with 8 shots on goal to Toronto’s 1. Arriola nearly padded the lead in the 42nd minute, after a through ball from Acosta, but Arriola couldn’t beat Bono after splitting the center backs.

However, United wouldn’t be denied their third, as Mattocks popped up for his 7th goal of the season in the 45th minute. A cross from Stieber was collected by Eriq Zavaleta, who tried to carry the ball out of trouble. But Mattocks regained possession, and Acosta got the ball in the box. Michael Bradley tackled the ball away from Acosta, but it fell right to Mattocks, who smashed home to give United a shocking three-goal advantage.

There was a wind advantage for United in the first half, and Olsen made note of it during his halftime interview, wary of the issues it may cause his team in the second half. The Reds brought on Tosaint Ricketts for Zavaleta at halftime, moving to a 3-5-2 formation.

Even as Toronto turned the screws to start the second half, United had a decent opportunity to add a fourth in the 53rd minute. Durkin rose up to win a header from a Stieber corner, flashing the ball across the face of goal. Mattocks was nearby, but could not react in time to get a second touch.

Any hope that United would then be able to stave off Toronto’s advances was ended three minutes later, as Osorio got the comeback underway. With United stretched defensively, Vazquez played the ball on the left to Ryan Telfer. The Black-and-Red didn’t account for all the attackers in the box, and Telfer rolled the ball to the penalty spot, where Osorio slammed a shot home to give TFC some life.

Ousted made a big save on Giovinco in the 62nd minute, but was unable to match that feat two minutes later, as Giovinco hit the post with a shot from outside the box. The ball took an unfortunate bounce for United, as instead of going out or going wide, the loose ball fell right to Vazquez, who made no mistake with a first-time shot. United, flying so high in the first half, were now clinging to an one goal lead.

Olsen had brought on Moreno for Acosta before the Vazquez goal, hoping to stem the tide. It didn’t work immediately, but the Black-and-Red were able to take some of the sting out of the game afterwards. Ousted was forced into two good saves, denying Osorio in the 79th, and Vazquez in the 82nd minute, as the clock crept closer to full time.

Hope was vanquished in the 86th minute as Hagglund leveled the score. Justin Morrow lifted a ball to the back post from just outside the box, and Hagglund, staying forward as TFC threw everything at United, redirected a header home for the equalizer.

It seemed certain that if one team was going to walk away with three points, it was going to the be the Reds. Instead, miraculously, a dormant D.C. offense awoke in the 90th minute, as Asad scored his second goal to give United the lead once again. Substitutes Patrick Mullins and Ian Harkes combined at the top of the Toronto box, with Harkes passing Mullins into space in the box. The angle was tight for a shot, but Asad was wide open at the far post, and Mullins found the Argentine, who made no mistake in front of the open goal.

Still, an eventful half resulted in six minutes of stoppage time, and that was more than enough for the Reds. Osorio sent a cross from one side of the box to the other, and Mullins, left marking both Giovinco and Hagglund, couldn’t stop the defender from heading home his second goal of the game, to level the score at 4-4 in the 92nd minute.

Incredibly, there was still time for a winner, and Asad probably should have walked off with a hat trick. Toronto was still pushing numbers forward to pursue a win, and they were caught out as Arriola got the ball on the right and sent an early cross into the box. Asad was open in front of goal, but his swing at the ball barely made contact. Mullins picked up the ball, and looked to find Asad again, but Toronto intervened, and the final whistle was blown shortly after.

United, with 10 points from 12 games, return to the field next Wednesday, when they host Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup. United’s next MLS game is a road trip to face the New England Revolution on June 30th.