D.C. United still couldn’t find the back of the net in MLS play, and couldn’t replicate last year’s shock win in Canada, losing 2-0 to Toronto FC on Saturday night. Jozy Altidore opened the scoring in the 60th minute, and his replacement, Jordan Hamilton, finished off the scoring with a header in the 85th minute, as United lost for the eighth time this season.
In their first MLS game in two weeks, head coach Ben Olsen ran out nine of the eleven players who played to a 0-0 draw against the LA Galaxy on June 3rd. Jose Ortiz and Jalen Robinson both dropped to the bench, with Lamar Neagle starting up top, and Steve Birnbaum retaking his place in heart of the defense.
United had come away with a somewhat surprising 2-1 victory in their last trip to Toronto, but it was always going to be tough to repeat that performance. And indeed, it was the hosts with the first opening in the 8th minute, but Kofi Opare helped shield Sebastian Giovinco off the ball in the box, and Bill Hamid was able to collect the ball.
A missed clearance from Opare four minutes later gave the Reds a chcance, with right wingback Steven Beitashour collecting the errant ball. Beitashour worked the ball onto his left foot and tried to curl a shot from outside of the box, but the effort was right at Hamid.
Giovinco has been a thorn in the side of the Black-and-Red ever since he joined MLS in 2015, and in the 26th minute, the Italian came close to opening up the scoring. A combination from Altidore and Victor Vazquez in midfield ended with Giovinco with the ball on the run, but the shot from TFC’s number 10 skipped past the far post.
Vazquez, Giovinco, and Altidore were at it again in the 30th minute, but a save from Hamid and a miss from Altidore kept the game scoreless. Collecting a pass from Vazquez, Giovinco fired quickly at goal, forcing Hamid into an awkward save on a dipping shot. The rebound popped up nicely for Altidore, but the American striker could only head wide from just in front of goal.
United were finally able to string a couple of passes together offensively, and create an opening in the 34th minute. Lloyd Sam and Luciano Acosta connected passes on the right flank, and Acosta quickly cut in towards the middle. A pass from Acosta found Ian Harkes at the top of the box, but a first-timed shot from the rookie was blocked, and a cross from Sam was then claimed by Alex Bono.
Left wing back Justin Morrow found his counterpart with a cross at the back post in the 38th minute, but Beitashour - who crashed into Taylor Kemp while heading the ball - sent his effort wide of the mark.
United’s best scoring chance of the half came in the 44th minute, with Jared Jeffrey quickly playing a long outlet pass up to Patrick Nyarko. Nyarko had favorable numbers with him, but waited for Lamar Neagle to get in front of goal before sending a cross into the box. With a touch, Neagle would have surely scored, but the ball evaded him by inches and the chance went begging.
United had enjoyed a decent spell in the final ten minutes or so of the first half, but they found the going tougher after halftime. Set pieces weren’t a friend of theirs, and nothing seemed imminent from open play either.
The Reds were inches away from the opener in the 49th minute, with their wingbacks the protagonists once again. Beitashour picked up a pass down the right flank, and whipped a cross into the middle, with Morrow crashing at the far post. Morrow slid in, but just missed making the crucial final touch.
The breakthrough for the Reds finally came on the hour mark. United let the game get stretched, and following a turnover, Michael Bradley moved the ball out to the right for Giovinco. The Atomic Ant took advantage of all the space, picking a pass to find Altidore making a run towards goal in between Birnbaum and Chris Korb. Altidore took a touch to bring the ball down, and then with the outside of his right foot powered a shot from just inside the box past Hamid, giving Toronto the 1-0 lead.
United hinted at creating chances, but never quite pried the TFC defense open to form a real reply to the goal. At the other end, Raheem Edwards - who came on as a sub for Beitashour - tested Hamid with a header in the 84th minute, as Vazquez sent an inviting ball into the box from a free kick. Edwards did well to win the header and get his shot on target, but Hamid was able to react quickly enough to push the ball over for a corner.
It was from that corner though, that TFC wrapped up the proceedings, with Hamilton scoring his second goal of the season. Vazquez sent the corner to the near post, and Hamilton beat Birnbaum to the ball, glancing a header that got by everyone for the 2-0 lead.
Ortiz, who came on late as a substitute, sent a lunging shot just wide at the near post as he got on the end of a cross from Acosta as United tried to at least break their scoreless run. Kemp then tried his luck from range in stoppage time, but an outstretched Bono was equal to the effort.
United, with 15 points from 15 games, return to action on Wednesday, when they host Atlanta United at RFK Stadium.