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D.C. United undone in 2-1 loss at Toronto FC

Two moments of poor play were punished by TFC, consigning United to a frustrating loss

MLS: D.C. United at Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United started with promise, but in soggy conditions at BMO Field, succumbed to a 2-1 loss at Toronto FC. Russell Canouse marked his return from injury by opening the scoring in the early stages, but United coughed up an Alejandro Pozuelo equalizer midway through the first half, and Jonathan Osorio’s acrobatic finish after halftime ended up being the game-winner.

United nearly took a 1st minute lead, as Julian Gressel’s clipped ball over the top caught the Toronto defense out. Ola Kamara was foiled by a bit of an odd hop chasing it down, though, having to wait for a crucial moment for the ball to come down, allowing Alex Bono to close him down just enough to make a kick save. Bono wasn’t done on the play, making a second save as Robertha tried to finish off the rebound from 20 yards.

Bill Hamid had to respond with a strong save of his own in the 5th minute, tipping Jayden Nelson’s powerful shot from an angle over the bar after an early ball sent the youngster into acres of space on the left.

The open nature of the game seemed to guarantee an early goal, and United answered the call in the 11th minute. A spell of possession eventually saw Robertha given time on the left wing to size up a cross, and with the TFC defense seemingly frozen in place, he picked out Canouse, who strolled into a gap 11 yards out and expertly glanced the inswinging service down and past Bono for his first goal of the year.

However, United wasn’t the only team carving out chances, and Toronto got level in the 23rd minute. Luca Petrasso’s corner picked out Michael Bradley at the near post, and he glanced the ball into the goalmouth for the onrushing Alejandro Pozuelo, who was unmarked and simply had to guide the ball over the line to equalize.

United slowly began to take control back, even as TFC piled up possession. Sofiane Djeffal drilled a 23-yarder just over the crossbar as the half wore on, while the Reds were rarely even able to get the ball into the final third.

Edison Flores skipped a shot a yard wide seconds into the second half as United got back to the more aggressive posture they opened the game with. However, Toronto would snatch the lead in the 53rd minute, using their best moment of attacking possession in the game to create a crossing opportunity with numbers in the box. Petrasso’s cross went long, but Jonathan Osorio managed a spectacular lunging finish thanks in part to some extra space afforded by Brad Smith.

United were pushing for an equalizer, but a strange moment nearly gave TFC a third in the 68th minute. Only Hamid’s early reaction allowed him to get out and deny Ifunanyachi Achara after Hines-Ike appeared to be blocked off by Jesús Jiménez.

Substitute Griffin Yow worked some magic on the edge of the box to dance free of two TFC defenders, but his near-post shot was caught and held by Bono with United runners lurking on the doorstep, while seconds later Gressel’s cross was within inches of being punched in by Flores.

The Black-and-Red were throwing numbers forward and won plenty of set pieces, but ultimately struggled with poor service as what started as a drizzle became more of a steady rain. Hernán Losada even sent Steven Birnbaum up front and moved into a 424 formation as United tried to kick the TFC door down, but in truth Toronto held their lead without any late drama.

United heads into the March international break with a 2W-0D-2L record, and will look to get back to winning ways on April 2 as they host Atlanta United. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm.


Box Score

MLS Regular Season - Game 4
Toronto FC 2 (Pozuelo 23, Osorio 53)
D.C. United 1 (Canouse 11)

Lineups:
TFC (5221): Alex Bono; Kadin Chung (Jakheel Marshall-Rutty 65), Lukas MacNaughton, Carlos Salcedo, Shane O’Neill, Luca Petrasso; Michael Bradley (C), Jonathan Osorio; Alejandro Pozuelo, Jayden Nelson (Ifunanyachi Achara 65); Jesús Jiménez (Kosi Thompson 84)

DCU (343): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum (C), Brendan Hines-Ike; Julian Gressel (Tony Alfaro 90), Russell Canouse, Sofiane Djeffal, Brad Smith; Ola Kamara, Nigel Robertha (Griffin Yow 62), Edison Flores (Ted Ku-DiPietro 76)

Bookings:
TFC - Pozuelo 47, Osorio 55, O’Neill 77, MacNaughton 82
DCU - Flores 49, Najar 72, Yow 83