In front of a crowd of 16,444 the Black-and-Red turned in one of their most inspired performances of the year. The result wasn’t what they wanted or what several players felt they deserved as they drew 1-1 with Toronto FC.
Kofi Opare scored a goal in the first half to give D.C. United a 1-0 lead, but things took a wild turn as Lloyd Sam was issued a red card for a malicious tackle on Mvenga. That put the home side at disadvantage as they had to play the rest of the match a man down. They conceded a goal in the second half that was of the own goal variety. It was typical of a team that has struggled to get out of their own way.
After surrendering that goal, they played solid defense and held one of the league’s most dangerous teams to very low percentage chances. It was a good result from a morale standpoint as they finally played desperate. There’s a long way to go for D.C. United, but they remained focused on the task at hand and were proud of themselves for playing a disciplined match. As Coach Olsen said post game, they have to fight, scratch and claw as that is how they are built. So for the last few games when they weren’t playing with that “fight” they struggled mightily. It’s a big part of their identity.
They expect to sign a couple of players this week and we will see this Saturday if those players are indeed ready to help immediately. It was definitely a step forward in what has been a bad season to this point, there’s still time although that’s fleeting as well.
Desperation: For the first time this year, especially through the first 17 minutes, the Black and Red played with a sense of desperation and urgency that has been missing recently. The two performances that stood out the most came from Kofi Opare and Luciano Acosta, having Nick DeLeon back also looks to have played a factor as his play seems to inspire others. They were relentless from the start of the game to the end, they’re going to need every bit of that going forward in the remaining matches to make something out of this season.
Switching fields: With Harkes out, Acosta was the only player on the field for D.C. United that seemed to do this in a timely manner. It’s something that I’ve been harping on all season, but it takes entirely too long for the ball to switch fields, meanwhile, Toronto does an exceptional job at it. We’ll see if some of the new additions help in this area as they’re coming from outside of the league.
Opare: He was exceptional from start to finish. He did a great job on Jozy Altiodore by matching that level of physicality when he was marking him. Opare not only took care of his assignments, but ended up helping teammates as well. He was a bit inconsistent last season, but has definitely proven his worth a few times this season.
Lucho: His work rate was evident in this match. There’s times when it’s fair to question just how hard he’s going during different stretches of matches, but this wasn’t one of those times. He was always around the ball, tracked back and got stops when needed and was a pain in Toronto’s side the entire time he was on the field. He drew several fouls and cards on several members of the visiting team with his skill on the ball and his unwillingness to go down easy. Sometimes I think folks forget he’s still young, but this was definitely a great showing in the maturity department. More importantly, his team needed every bit of what he gave.
Mental toughness. The Black-and-Red deserve to be praised for this, they’ve been on a downwards spiral ever since the loss to Seattle where they led 3-0. They definitely could have just laid down and quit fighting, instead they responded and played with pride. It’s still a very deep hole to try and climb out of, but D.C. United at least started that journey with a passion fueled performance.