Johnson, Rolfe, lead D.C. United to emphatic win vs. TFC

Chris Rolfe

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By CLIFF STARKEY

WASHINGTON—D.C. United are quickly putting the memory of last season well behind them.

Both D.C. United—second place in the Eastern Conference—and Toronto FC—one spot behind—wanted to use Wednesday’s game in the nation’s capital as an opportunity to keep pace with Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City, as well as further separate themselves from the rest of the playoff-seeking pack.

In the end, it was D.C. United who made the most of the night, and came away with those important three points.

Exceptional goalkeeping by Bill Hamid led the way for D.C. United to a 3-0 victory over Eastern Conference rival Toronto FC at RFK Stadium. Goals from Eddie Johnson, Chris Rolfe, and an own goal by Nick Hagglund ensured that D.C. United remain in the thick of the race for the Eastern Conference title.

D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen was understandably upbeat after the game.

“A 3-0 win against one of the better teams in this league—overall, it was a really good night,” Olsen said. “Shutouts aren’t easy to come by in this league, and I’m happy that the group got that tonight.”

For a team that has only won once in their last seven matches, TFC impressed early, but squandered multiple scoring chances throughout the first half. Had it not been for a phenomenal seven first-half saves by Hamid, TFC could’ve very easily had a lead going into halftime.

After the game, TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen lamented his team’s inability to score.

“We had the opportunities to score the goals, and we didn’t take them,” Nelsen said. “I think if we had gotten that first one—with the chances we had—it would have been a whole different game. We were soft in both boxes.”

But unlike TFC, D.C. United was clinical with the few chances the team created.

In the 8th minute, directly after TFC’s Dominic Oduro missed just wide of goal, D.C. United put themselves ahead thanks to a trademarked headed goal by Johnson. A Sean Franklin pass sent Perry Kitchen down the right side, and his brilliant cross found an unmarked Johnson, whose powerful header is his third in three games.

Olsen was again high on his striker.

“(Johnson) continues to get better every game,” Olsen said. “He was a real force tonight.”

After going down a goal, TFC looked more confident, but chance after chance was pushed aside by Hamid, who finished the game with eight saves.

D.C. United right back Sean Franklin said that the defense fed off of leadership by both team captain Bobby Boswell and Hamid.

“(Boswell) is saying stuff—(Hamid) is the one that sees everything,” Franklin said. “He’s yelling at me, he’s yelling at (Boswell), he’s yelling at the forwards even. He’s a big voice back there. It’s nice to have that support back there.”

The second half opened with another fantastic save from Hamid, who smothered a shot by Luke Moore in the 46th minute, who had been released by a surgical pass by Jermain Defoe.

After that, D.C. United put the game to bed with a 59th minute goal by Rolfe, who benefitted from a seldom-seen referee advantage called in the box.

After Nick DeLeon was brought down by a bad challenge by new TFC acquisition Warren Creavalle, referee Chris Penso looked set to blow his whistle and point to the spot. However, the ball bounced away from DeLeon, and right to Rolfe, who was streaking down the middle. Penso swallowed his whistle, Rolfe easily put the ball away, and D.C. United had a 2-0 lead.

Twelve minutes later, a TFC own goal by Nick Hagglund gave D.C. United three goals, and three points.

The win for D.C. United continues recent trends for both teams. D.C. United has won four in a row, while TFC will have to wait yet again for a chance to turn their slump around.

TFC captain Michael Bradley was disappointed with the result, but knows the season has a long way to go.

“It’s frustrating,” Bradley said. “But the reality is still that we’re more or less halfway through—and we’re not at the top, but we’re not at the bottom. The big games are still to come.”

Olsen sees the win as another step in his team’s march to the postseason.

“These guys are on a mission,” Olsen said of his team. “I think they want to do some special things. Things have been good, but we’ll be tested.”

This weekend, D.C. United travel to Houston to play the Dynamo on Sunday, while Toronto FC travel to Montreal to play the Impact on Saturday.

 

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23 Responses to Johnson, Rolfe, lead D.C. United to emphatic win vs. TFC

  1. AC says:

    Deleon looking impressive.

  2. Jake says:

    All of DCU looking impressive. I can’t say that anyone on the team had a poor game. Closest would be Arnaud, and he was perfectly adequate. This team looks good. And Espindola comes back in the next week or so. Not sure who it pushes to the bench. Everyone is playing well. I suppose it could be Arnaud, but maybe we ease Espindola back in and get a chance to start rotating attackers and giving guys much needed games off. Lots of games and travel the next two months.

    • Josh D says:

      Kitchen has just been getting better and better. His passing range is great and he’s looking more intelligent when intercepting or closing down players. Honestly, he made Bradley look like an ordinary MLS player. I expect Kitchen to earn a spot on the next MLS USMNT team. And he’ll move to Europe soon.

      Bradley just has not raised his game since entering MLS. Maybe he just needs a season like Dempsey did, but as it stands, he’s not the dominating force he should be given his age and skill level.

      • beachbum says:

        Bradley had 3 assists in that game, beautiful looks laid on a platter for Oduro…even you would have finished them Josh. He does this every week, like last week when he teed up Henry and Jackson repeatedly only for those guys to whiff their numerous chances? you are so full of it these days, blind seems to me

        Kitchen did not make anyone look ordinary although he played well and has been all season.

        • Josh D says:

          Kitchen outplayed Bradley. I saw Bradley play good balls; I did not see him dominate the middle like I would expect from a DP of his stature.

          • beachbum says:

            DC outplayed TFC, because they are a better team. MB actually set his team up to compete, and maybe even to win, even with the inferior side (which TFC is) IF his teammates could finish the simple chances he creates on that team…even you could finish. But see whatever you need to see to support your positions Josh

        • Tom says:

          “Bradley had 3 assists in that game, beautiful looks laid on a platter for Oduro…like last week when he teed up Henry and Jackson repeatedly only for those guys to whiff their numerous chances”

          Agreed. He’s not been lighting the field on fire, but he’s been pretty good. I think he’s trying not to do too much, and it is quite possible the coach needs to let him drift back a bit and drop a forward into a *slightly* deeper hole.

          Toronto’s leaving tons of space between M and D lines sometimes, and sometimes tons of space between M and F–more than I suspect they ought to be.

  3. Lost in Space says:

    The Dog days of summer in MLS are hard on the players. Between the Heat, Travel, and fixture dates it can be difficult to keep everyone healthy and in good form. The addition of a young CB and the return of Espindola will allow for a deeper rotation for DC, which in turn will hopefully result in fresher players come playoff time.

  4. Alex says:

    TFC has got a real finishing problem. They’re playing really well at times in attack but it just seems like every shot goes straight at the goalie.

    • AC says:

      I was thinking the same because Bradley was setting guys up but the finishing was horrible.

      • Alex says:

        I’d guess teams figure if they focus on shutting down Defoe they don’t have a whole lot else to worry about. Oduro and Jackson do a lot of things well but tight angle finishing from Bradley through balls is not one of them

        • beachbum says:

          exactly…although some of the geniuses here blame Bradley for that…because it fits their small minded understanding of what’s happening

      • Jake says:

        They ran into Hamid. Bradley was good enough, but he can’t do it all himself. Kitchen was as good or better. He did get an assist.

  5. g says:

    I think Hamid just makes it look like the ball goes right at him.

  6. Kevin says:

    DCU is looking good – longest winning streak since ’08 – but they’re entering a challenging stretch. They have seven games in August including road games with LA, KC, and Real Salt Lake. If they’re still looking this strong in a month we’ve got a legit Supporters Shield and MLS Cup prospect in the Black-and-Red.

  7. Matt says:

    Bradley just has to learn that he’s better off passing it to Defoe when he’s being marked than passing it to a wide open Oduro.

  8. Gary Page says:

    Elsewhere Ben Olsen was quoted as praising Eddie Johnson, saying that he not only has been scoring goals, he has also been doing good work in occupying central defenders and holding the ball up and distributing. Gee, you think maybe it would have been good to have him at the World Cup as a back up to Altidore? I have been supportive of Klinsmann, but I roundly criticized him for not including Donovan and EJ on the squad instead of Brad Davis and Wondolowski. One of those times when I hated to be right.

  9. espy says:

    In related news, Eddie Johnson seems to be having a mini meltdown on twitter as we speak.

    He’s called out Brian Ching, for some reason. And various other usmnt’ers (though, not by name).

  10. bryan says:

    this game made me so happy.