After the Friendly That Never Should Have Been (and possibly never was), we don't have to wait long to see D.C. United back in meaningful action, as they will host Toronto FC Wendesday night in proper MLS action. The two sides sit second and third in the Eastern Conference, United ahead of the Reds by 8 points having played one extra game. The two sides split their first two meetings, so this represents the rubber match. Here's how the B&RU staff think it will go down.
We'll be playing against Bradley and Defoe without Espindola or Parke. Toronto is hungry for a win. They know they are better than how they've been playing. For them, it all comes to a head at RFK, at precisely the time that DC is having its post-Fulham-friendly hangover. We're not going to win this one. But we hang on well enough to avoid a loss, with some theatrics from Hamid and Boswell, the occasional cross on a swift counter from Korb, a yellow card for Kitchen. I predict a 1-1 draw. Goals by Defoe and Silva.
Adam M Taylor
It has to be United, right? We're finally seeing los Capitalinos figure out how to score goals, and north of the 49th, Ryan Nelson is still watching his multi-million dollar acquisitions play with multiple personalities on the field. Ultimately, Toronto are a very low-margin team that needs for its opponents to make mistakes, and at the moment, United are playing mostly mistake-free soccer. Look for United to score on an early set piece and for Eddie Johnson to find the net before halftime. Unfortunately United's recent habit of giving up a needless late goal will continue via Jermain Defoe, but it will still be enough to win 2-1.
We welcome DeRo back to RFK, but he also brings his friends Jermaine Defoe and MB90 with him to try and spoil the party. But, in the end, DeRo's return is spoiled by an EJ penalty kick and a Silva surprise as United continues bringing the pain to the East with a 2-0 victory.
On a night when D.C. United offered fans the opportunity to see star-laden Toronto FC for $15 (including beverage and a hotdog--enter offer code "HOTDOG" here), expect D.C. United to give the home crowd something to cheer for. The Black-and-Red beat the Reds 2-1, with goals from Chris Rolfe and Luis Silva. Jermain Defoe gets a goal for Toronto, but then Bill Hamid does what he does and denies the equalizing goal. (Seriously, that ticket deal is awesome.)
Unless Ryan Nelsen resurrects the 4231 that worked so well against United for a half - you know, the same formation he changed at halftime for no good reason, and then we went on to take control and win 2-1 - I think United is the better team in this game. Yes, TFC has Bradley and Defoe, but they're also missing half of their starting defense and come in having just lost at home while up a man. United rested up over the weekend, and at home we should be able to take advantage of Toronto being a shallow team. Steve Birnbaum heads a set piece home in the opening stages, and TFC's defend-and-counter gameplan dies on the vine. Chris Rolfe adds a second after halftime rather than winning a PK as has been the norm lately. Proletariat 2 Bourgeoisie 0.
TFC is a weird team, and games against them are always weird. They are the team that should be far better than they are, except they didn't spend any of their millions of dollars on actually building an MLS-proven defense. I think that D.C. United's starter will come out after their first and only rest this season and keep United's winning streak going: 2-1, with goals by Luis Silva, Chris Rolfe, and Ol' Gil.
So D.C. is playing a Toronto team that just had their marquee player called out on National TV by Alexi Lalas (Michael Bradley), and they'll be missing one of their centerbacks (Doneil Henry) after playing a game for real on the weekend. I would like to think that this should be an easy game, but I'll continue to form and pick against D.C., with a 1-1 draw being the result.
D.C. United were able to take all three points from Toronto in Toronto less than a month ago. Jermain Defoe is rested, having played 27 minutes in league play and 45 minutes in a friendly since July 19th, and United will have to succeed again in wrangling him if they are to repeat their feat. I see a 1-0 win for DCU, closing in on Sporting Kansas City for the East lead.
How do you think things will play out on Wednesday night? Let us know in the comments.