D.C. United take on Toronto FC for the second time this season, despite having played five more games than the Reds. As befits what happens in the first match, our predictions are all over the place. Let us know what you think will happen in the comments!
The team heads to Toronto 10 points clear of e'erybody in the East and we will probably see more changes from the team that won in Chicago Wednesday night. Toronto is flying high by beating Montreal with their big 3 starring, and I bet we see them again this weekend. It's their last chance to use that lineup before the Gold Cup takes MB90 and Jozy away for a month. In the end, I think we still get to declare 3 points at U.S. customs via a tough 2-1 victory. I'll take Espindola and Pontius for the goals.
DC United typically wins in Toronto. But we'll be facing a full-strength offensive juggernaut that's finally figuring out how to properly calibrate its weapons. Just one of its weapons - Giovinco - singlehandedly put us away in a rare RFK loss a few weeks ago. DC has won two in a row. But we've yet to pull together a string of three successive victories this season, despite our very comfortable lead in the table. Both teams are dealing with a short rest, but DC gets the added subtraction (added subtraction?!) of doing it all on the road. Toronto would love to defeat the League leaders - we've got a big target on our back that will motivate both the Reds and their fans. This game is actually quite the litmus test for DC United. Slow and steady can win the Supporters Shield - but it doesn't win the MLS Cup. If we're to win the MLS Cup, we've got to pull out victories in circumstances like these against teams like this one. Sure, we can take out an Accam-less Fire on the road. But a Bradleyful, Altidoreful, Giovincoful Toronto on the road? I predict a tough first half. We'll be down 2-0, with one of those goals coming from our nemesis Giovinco. But do not despair. We'll even things out: Arrieta and Rolfe score in the second half. And we'll nearly pull off a victory toward the end of the game with a Kitchen shot off the crossbar. But no dice. Final score, 2-2.
It's hard for me to get a read on just how D.C. United comes into this one with Toronto. And it's primarily because there is the matter of an Open Cup game next Tuesday on the mind of Ben Olsen, or at least should be. One would presume that he will not make out his players Saturday, in which case guys like Espindola and Rolfe might not go 90 minutes in favor of keeping something in reserve on Tuesday. Perhaps Markus Halsti goes so Davy Arnaud can have 10 days of rest before the game. It's hard to tell who would be impacted, but I think Toronto wins 2-0, if nothing else for the fact that D.C. might be looking ahead to next week.
Last time we played Toronto, they came to RFK and beat us and it was lame. So this time? This time we're going to go to their house and beat them and it will be great. It won't be easy, though, especially with this nutso schedule United are playing through right now. I'll say the Black-and-Red score a late goal to steal the three points, 2-1, with goals from Rolfe and Arrieta.
Good news: United will be more energetic and smarter going forward than they were when TFC visited RFK Stadium. Bad news: The Reds will have Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore for more than a late cameo off the bench. This is going to be a better showing for the Black-and-Red than their last game against TFC, but I have a suspicion that it won't be enough to turn in 3 points. Fabian Espindola scores, but so does Sebastian Giovinco. 1-1.
If you think Ben Olsen won't have his guys keyed in on the facts that (1) Sebastian Giovinco single-handedly dismantled them to end their 20-game home unbeaten streak and (2) Toronto FC are the one club with a realistic chance of deposing United from their Eastern Conference throne, you haven't been paying attention. The Black-and-Red will have to lean on some dark arts, led by High Necromancer Bobby Boswell, to keep the spritely Italian contained, but they'll largely be successful. Moments of brilliance at either end of the field will lead to goals from Jozy Altidore and Nick DeLeon (he's going to score one of these days, I know it!). 1-1 final.
Toronto has played five fewer matches than D.C. United and allowed two more goals. Because of reasons, I choose to focus on that instead of the fact that Toronto has played five fewer matches than D.C. United and scored just one fewer goal. In the end, it's an acceptable 1-1 draw on a rainy Toronto evening.