D.C. United lost to Toronto FC for the second time this year tonight, a Giovinco hat trick and another goal resulting from a rebound off the post of a shot by, you guessed it, the Atomic Ant. It was a back-and-forth affair, mostly down to Los Capitalinos leaving themselves vulnerable on the counter and also committing inexplicable fouls in dangerous spots.
So, what have we learned tonight?
You can’t switch off on defense and expect to get a result
All three Toronto goals were a direct result of defenders making bad decisions or failing to think. First Jared Jeffrey committed a stupid foul on Sebastian Giovinco, setting up the Italian to score a goal of the week nominee of a free kick. Then Marcelo Sarvas failed to put pressure on the ball, allowing the entry pass that resulted in Toronto’s second goal — also failing to distinguish himself on the play was Taylor Kemp, who chose not to track Marky Delgado, who put in the rebound for the go-ahead goal. And then the first thing happened again, verbatim (though with more yellow card for Jeffrey).
There aren’t a lot of leagues where you can just stop playing on defense and expect anything but disaster to happen. MLS ain’t one of them.
It’s time for Jared Jeffrey to have a seat
Jeffrey got himself a nice goal with a really nice 50-yard run to put him into scoring position, and the finish was ice cold. It was a passing buildup that #25 turned into a goal, and he deserves mad props for it.
So you know how bad he had to be the rest of the game for me to call him United’s worst player on the night. Besides the two dumb fouls on Giovinco that led directly to goals, he got caught in possession a couple other times, in addition to committing needless fouls. When Marcelo came out and Jeffrey moved into the #6 role, gaps opened up, and Toronto applied a period of pressure before United came back into the game.
He passed at 70% for the night, which isn’t good enough in central midfield unless you’re trying killer balls. He was too slow of thought on both sides of the ball.
With the Black-and-Red’s winger corps no longer depleted by injury, Ben Olsen should move Nick DeLeon back into the middle and Jeffrey back to the bench after this performance.
United has to find a way to break down a compact defense
For the second time this year, Toronto FC out Benny-balled Benny. TFC spent the entire game playing as if they were the road team and 2015 Ben Olsen were there head coach: they sat deep and looked to play very direct on the counter. Only, with Benoit Cheryou in the midfield and Sebastian Giovinco up top, the result was three first-half goals.
Once the Reds (strangely playing at home in white-and-blue) got their goals, their first, second and third priorities were to close up shop and park the bus, which they did to strong effect. A few late chances aside, United failed to turn their majority of possession into much real danger.
It feels weird to say that, but as United moves to a slightly more possession-having team, they're going to have to figure out how to score goals against an organized defense. It's on Luciano Acosta and the rest of the attack to solve the problems presented to them. Wingers like Patrick Nyarko, Lloyd Sam and Lamar Neagle and United's group of strikers have to step up as well.
Bonus Fourth Thing
On behalf of D.C. United, I’d like to apologize to the rest of the league for getting Giovinco back on-track with a hat trick tonight. Truly, I am sorry. Like, David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor sorry.