April 21, 2021

D.C. United Game 17 Recap: United hit halfway point in first place after win at Toronto

Road wins are rarely pretty, but they are so very important. D.C. United got three vital away points Saturday night, winning at Eastern Conference rival Toronto FC, 2-1, before 22,591 at BMO Field. Nick DeLeon and Perry Kitchen scored the goals for United, while Luke Moore got on the scoresheet for Toronto. With the win, United improved to 8-5-4 (28 points), leaving D.C. alone in first place in the East halfway through its season (pending Sporting Kansas City’s result Sunday vs. Chicago).

Road wins were non-existent in the league for United last season, one when winning anywhere was a true rarity. There was a school of thought that such troubled times would befall the black-and-red again now, with leading scorer (and assist man) Fabian Espindola out with a knee injury for several weeks. Where would the offense come from?

After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, Nick DeLeon provided a stylish answer to that question in the 54th minute. After helping to force a turnover in Toronto’s defensive zone, DeLeon charged toward goal, fighting off TFC defender Nick Hagglund, who gave up the ball, (he had a bad night) along the way. Then, faced with midfielder Collen Warner in front of him, DeLeon faked, sending the would-be defender tumbling to the ground, and scored from about 16 yards.

Following Moore’s equalizer on the hour, United needed just 9 minutes to respond and produce the final decisive offensive move of the game. This wasn’t as flashy as DeLeon’s second goal of the season, but it was as effective. Midfielder Lewis Neal, brought on minutes earlier as a substitute for Luis Silva, sent in a splendid corner kick that came down at the top of the 6-yard box. TFC chose not to mark Kitchen, with only Hagglund (there’s that man again) getting close to Kitchen as he rose up valiantly to head home the winner.

Hagglund’s night got worse (if you can believe it) in the 88th minute, when he was at first cautioned for fouling United forward Eddie Johnson on a breakaway where there would have been no TFC field players between Johnson and the goal. Moments later, however, head referee David Gantar conferred with one of his assistants and subsequently sent Hagglund off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, perhaps mercifully ending his night.

Down both a man and a goal now in stoppage time, Toronto (6-5-3, 21 points, 4th place, East) had a couple chances to earn a point, none better than that off the foot of Daniel Lovitz, 9 seconds after the scheduled 5 minutes of stoppage time were complete. From the attacking right, Werner sent in a fine cross deep to the back post, where Lovitz found himself alone running toward it. His volley probably should have tied the match, but United goalkeeper Bill Hamid batted it around the post for a corner, which came to nothing as the final whistle sounded.

Hamid made five saves as Toronto outshot United, 19-7 total, and 6-2 in attempts on goal. But both of United’s targeted shots found the back of the net in a clutch road win. D.C. now sits tied for second with Real Salt Lake in the overall Major League Soccer standings (the race for the Supporters Shield), five points back of Seattle, who played Vancouver late Saturday night.

United is next in action Friday night at San Jose in a game that kicks off just after 11 p.m. Eastern on NBCSN. United stands 8-3-3 in its last 14 league matches.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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