D.C. United came into Saturday's game with Toronto FC winners of two in a row over their Eastern Conference foes, and was facing a lineup who has a player in it (Michael Bradley) making almost double the entire D.C. lineup. D.C. did have some moments but eventually found themselves hanging on over Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, and left BMO Field with a 0-0 draw. Combined with the New England Revolution's loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, extending their lead to 11 points in the East.
Our Words (Ryan Keefer): "The second half found Toronto with most of the possession and all of the chances. D.C. defended well though, with only two goals on goal (out of a second eight shots on target). D.C. - seemingly content for a road on the point - had no shots on goal for almost all of the second half, save for a Jairo Arrieta stoppage-time volley that Chris Konopka had to tip over the bar. Giovinco was dangerous for most of the second half but couldn't beat Hamid, who picked up his 6th shutout on the year (pulling him into fourth on that list alongside Clint Irwin and Nick Rimando)."
The Washington Post (Steven Goff): "After braving relentless rain, wicked winds and the "Atomic Ant" for 90 minutes Saturday, D.C. United was plenty satisfied with a 0-0 draw against Toronto FC before a few thousand hearty spectators at BMO Field.
All things considered — the weather, the surging opponent’s formidable attack and the travel demands — "it’s nice to come out of here with a point," midfielder Nick DeLeon said. "We’ll take it. We’ll definitely take it."
MLSsoccer.com (Armen Bedakian): "Skies gray and dull, rain pouring down, Toronto FC’s rematch with D.C. United at BMO Field never seemed to get started. Neither side managed to find the back of the net in a scrappy game that left each team with one point.
It was a frustrating match for the home side in particular, after Toronto FC came off a big 3-1 victory over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday. For D.C. United, this was one of many games played in recent weeks and the visitors should be more than pleased with a point away from home."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "Toronto has an amazing attack led by Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. In the last meeting between the teams Giovinco slipped into dangerous spaces and scored two goals in a 2-1 win at RFK Stadium. Saturday Giovinco was still dangerous, but his effect was muted. Steve Birnbaum and Bobby Boswell specifically kept Giovinco in check and received support when needed. Altidore was also was frustrated and subbed out in the second half. Bradley had his moments, but more often than not he was denied space at critical moments through the work of Davy Arnaud and Perry Kitchen."
Waking the Red: "The game as a whole didn't hold a candle to Wednesday's performance against Montreal, but it is an important point nonetheless. D.C's defensive 6 collapsed onto Sebastian Giovinco whenever he got the ball, but to his credit he kept his cool after being fouled - a marked improvement from the NYCFC game. D.C's attack never really threatened TFC, who did well dealing with Fabian Espindola."
Ben Olsen (on the #AntAgitation strategy): "I don’t know, I think there is a bit of hoop-la right now, New York (City FC) fouled them a few times and that everybody is playing physical against him. He’s a good player, he’s buzzing around, and he’s going to get fouled. It comes with the territory of having that type of influence on the game."
Davy Arnaud (on playing against Giovinco): "It isn’t much fun; his movement is great he is so sharp. You know with him, Michael and Jozy their movements are very good. Him in particularly. He has a low center of gravity, it isn’t easy to defend against him, you need to mark him with numbers. You have to frustrate him try to deny him the ball, you can’t take him out of the game completely but we did a good job of being physical with him and cutting out the lanes to him and offering something else other than that pass."
Greg Vanney (on the game): "I thought it was a well competed match for both teams they did a good job of getting numbers down on the ball, clogging up the middle of the field, making things difficult for us. They are for sure committed and they did what I think they do, when they do well, is they don’t make mistakes, they don’t give you anything, and they force you to come beat them. They have their moments on counters and set pieces from time to time. So, I think they executed that well. For us we had opportunities, I think we left some real opportunities on the table, we probably should have got more out of. I thought we needed to be a little bit more aggressive on the flanks, I thought too many times we would get into the flanks and real attacking positions and we would cut back and play sideways or backwards and we really needed to attack out of those positions because when we went backwards or sideways they got numbers behind the ball it became crowded in the middle of the field and our attacks sort of got bogged down. Aside from that it was a hard fought game in tough conditions. The wind was definitely playing tricks on the ball so it was hard to read it and the field was running really quick. Anytime we played it in behind and Sebastian was trying to take the balls on the run, it was definitely skipping and there were some tough times. But that was for both teams.."
We talked about the need for squad management and personnel rotation the last time we were here, which was why Wednesday's Luke Mishu became Saturday's Taylor Kemp, or that Wednesday's good Steve Birnbaum was replaced by Saturday's really good Steve Birnbaum. But the theme seems to be, whether it was Sunday against the New England Revolution, Wednesday against the Chicago Fire or Saturday against Toronto, it is rotation, rotation, rotation. Luis Silva was encouraging in his first start with Fabian Espindola, Birnbaum was excellent, the interplay with Espindola, DeLeon and Chris Korb was surprisingly effective, last ball results aside.
Perhaps a larger thing to be emphasized is the self-awareness that Ben Olsen may have with his roster pieces. This coming Tuesday will make for D.C.'s 15th game in less than two months. The record during that time, figuring in the U.S. Open Cup win in Pittsburgh? 7-4-3. That's with a constantly rotating lineup selection that only Peter Vermes could admire. And like Vermes, Olsen has had and will have to shuffle lineups over three different competitions in 2015, and the various combinations is giving them a sense of interdependency and their play together is improving. Summer transfer window in 10 days to find the rug that ties the room together?
The Last Word:
Now it's on to Tuesday, where D.C. play the Philadelphia Union before presumably heading on an overnight flight to play the Seattle Sounders Friday night (viva Major League Soccer's haphazard scheduling!) D.C. United is going to have to rely on the players relying on each other another time, and there is justifiable optimism that they'll deliver a bit better than before.