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Six things about D.C. United hanging seven on Toronto FC

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The 90s are alive and well, and so is this United side

Caitlin Buckley / Black and Red United

Last night, D.C. United picked Toronto FC up, crumpled them into a little ball, and slammed them down into a trash can. The 7-1 scoreline was a club record high score, as well as the first time in MLS history that a team had seven different players score in a game. It also reflected, on some level, the buy-in of the respective sides. United? Bought in with every fiber of their collective beings. TFC? Well, they’re saying they are, but you probably saw the game.

So now that we’re done the laughing and carrying on, me (it’s Jason, and I can report I’m not sunburnt or blind after this 5:30pm kickoff) and Ryan Keefer had some things to say. So, let’s relive the first 7-1 win United’s ever had, shall we?

Hernán Losada Blues Explosion

Here’s United playing TFC yesterday:

Alright, so this is actually the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion playing on some strange Australian TV show in the mid-90s, but you know what? It’s also fast, loud, and they blew the lid off the venue, so it’s also a handy metaphor (or at least an opportunity to put a top 10 Youtube video in a soccer article, whatever).

Normally a music act comes onto a TV show and has to tailor some aspect of their normal performance. Instead, Jon Spencer bellowed his song at the host, climbed into the baffled crowd, shoved a camera man who was obstructing the theremin (I don’t know what D.C. United’s theremin is, but I’m gonna figure it out), and gave Australian youths a pure distillation of their sound and their normal live performances. It was rough around the edges, but it was full of vigor and feeling.

That’s this band, and they were utterly themselves in a situation where most bands aren’t. The commitment to being the Blues Explosion — not a watered down version, but the real deal — is indisputable.

You know where I’m going with this. United were facing a mess of a TFC team, and rather than pull their punches, they played the songs we know as loud and as fast as they could. They didn’t try to actually dismantle Audi Field, but they did more or less dismantle Toronto FC. Just when you’d have thought it was over (around 7:20 in this video, or Paul Arriola’s goal to make it 4-1), they went even harder. It was chaos, and it was beautiful.

After two full years of the product on the field not being what anyone had really planned or wanted, I feel pretty much like the weird host dude at the end of that clip. Rock and roll is alive, and it was alive at Audi Field last night. — Jason Anderson

Bullet dodged

In some different multiverse, sometime around the holidays, Chris Armas and United brass both happily signed off of a Zoom in which the terms of a deal to bring him to the District to coach DCU were settled and agreed to. That version of United never bothered snooping around Europe, and never made the phone call or email or whatever it was that got them and Losada connected.

I believe that version of United, who are still behind on overall talent in most games, would have finished their twelfth game of the year with maybe one win, max. A fanbase that was threatening revolt over the idea would have actually followed through. An announced crowd of 11,082 that essentially doubled the actual numbers in the building would have howled their derision. Big names would be looking for the exit, and young stars would be struggling to grow as players.

I am glad we are in this particular section of the multiverse. — JA

Winston Wolf redux

I think I’ve dropped Harvey Keitel’s fixer character in Pulp Fiction as a frame of mind before, and hanging seven on Toronto FC seems to be as good a time as any to revisit it.

Look, Toronto is bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Their backline Saturday was Omar Gonzalez (who has rarely looked himself since returning to MLS), Eriq Zavaleta (who decided to leave early yesterday), and Chris Mavinga (he still plays?). They looked bad on the first goal and worse on the second. Goal three was a bad bounce, Mavinga was stood up on goal four, and after the red card, well, they were done. I mean, Ola Kamara being offside prevented an eighth! Toronto plays New England Wednesday with the very real possibility that they could go two months without a win. Things are THAT bad in the 6, y’all.

So when it comes to a game like this, all both sides can (and should) really do is watch the game film and move on, because it’s almost as much of an outlier as D.C. not being able to score while up a man on Inter Miami a couple of weeks ago. Everyone will suck at some point in their timeline. Coaches are hired to get fired, teams and players will win and lose. Whatever bile I have is reserved for Michael Bradley, who almost a year ago threw a little shade in remarks after a post-game scrum.

Now, points to Bradley for apologizing for the mess that TFC fans were subjected to Saturday night. Maybe self-preservation is an instinct he possesses. But, a just and honest God will make sure that those are the only points he stays familiar with for the near future, because as someone who’s spent more than half of his near-400 game career in MLS, he should know better. Given that eleven out of 16 D.C. guys who appeared Saturday were with the team in 2020, they should know it too.

Either way, to sum it up, just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character. — Ryan Keefer

Time 4 Sum Data

Alright, so 7-1 does sum up how the game went, because United really did show that much superiority over TFC on the night. But let’s go past the goals and find some other data points, shall we?

  • United out-shot Toronto 21-6
  • United, despite leading for 88 minutes and being up by 2+ goals for 82 minutes, still ended up having more of the possession (52.2%) while restricting TFC to just 71.1% passing accuracy
  • United won the duels battle 68-41
  • United had 24 tackles, while Toronto had a measly 6
  • United completed 66% of their passes in the attacking third

There’s no delicate way to put it: the Black-and-Red kicked Toronto’s ass. They had more and better ideas, they were hungrier, they relished a fight while TFC wanted to simply be allowed to get back on the bus and go to the airport.

Obviously this isn’t going to happen often. Most MLS teams, even the bad ones, fight. And on most nights, United’s 2.6 expected goals do not become seven actual real-life goals. So savor it, but also remember that the platform of club-record blowout wins with this team is going to be bringing this level of intensity and focus for 90 minutes. — JA

A couple stray thoughts

These are just some ideas I had while driving that aren’t going to be a full segment, but that I think people want to talk about:

  • Nigel Robertha started over Ola Kamara without rotation being an issue and scored...but then Kamara came in and scored a very similar goal (plus another that got chalked off). We have a serious competition up top.
  • Andy Najar has gone from a sentimental favorite with major injury woes to a game-in, game-out difference maker in barely two months. It’s just wonderful, I don’t know what else to say.
  • Also in that category: Kevin Paredes is an actual star, and he’s doing it while having a ton of fun.
  • This is a spoiler for Filibuster this week, but TFC playing a 541 without actually being compact meant United got 1v1 battles for their three forwards and two wingbacks. After seeing what happened to the Reds, other teams will probably avoid doing that!
  • I bet we’re going to see Griffin Yow during the Capital Cup, and I bet he’s going to attack those games just like he did this game. I love seeing a player who could just take it easy and have a laugh instead go in and play the game like it’s 0-0, and I loved seeing him do a hard sprint from a long way away to go celebrate after that long ball assist for Kamara’s goal. — JA

One last thing

I loved to see a unified Chico Stand spend the 12th minute remembering Big Rob, who has left us far too soon.

Caitlin Buckley / Black and Red United

Years from now, I might say Kevin Paredes scored his first DCU goal against Miami, or that Ola Kamara started up front rather than Nigel Robertha. You see a lot of games, the facts can get jumbled up. One thing I’m definitely gonna be able to tell you, though, is that the time United beat TFC 7-1 was the same night that this tifo was raised on Buzzard Point. — JA