DC United 1, Toronto FC 2 | MLS Match Recap
WASHINGTON - A Sebastian Giovinco brace would be enough to wash away an early Steve Birnbaum tally as Toronto FC downed D.C. United on Saturday evening, battling to an entertaining 2-1 victory in front of 17,105 at RFK Stadium.
The TFC win ends United’s franchise-best home unbeaten streak at 20 games and hurdles the Canadian side over the New York Red Bulls to within a point of second-place New England in the Eastern Conference.
TFC seemed out of sorts during the game’s opening quarter hour, perhaps missing the calming presence of Michael Bradley — who remains in Europe with the US national team — and the physicality of Jozy Altidore, who started the match on the bench as he continued to recover from a hamstring strain.
D.C., on the other hand, looked full of life from the get go. Five minutes in, Fabian Espindola -- starting just his third match of the year -- collected the ball 30 yards from goal, turned and stuck an audacious, floating attempt that managed to catch TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka off his line. Espindola’s attempt struck the crossbar and found its way into the path of Conor Doyle, who was unable to head the rebound home.
United wouldn’t have to wait long to get their next chance, and Espindola was involved once again. The Argentine’s pacy, perfectly-placed corner kick found an unmarked Birnbaum in stride and the defender made no mistake with the service, calmly slotting the ball home from the top of the six yard box for his first MLS goal. It would be the third time in as many appearances that Espindola connected with a teammate for a corner kick assist.
TFC eventually found their way into the match and got their first crack at equalizing in the 23rd minute. Using a few crafty moves in the box to elude D.C. defender Kofi Opare, Giovinco bobbed and weaved before rifling a low shot to the near post that United ‘keeper Andrew Dykstra just barely managed to get his fingertips on.
Toronto continued to push after the miss and again came inches away from equalizing in the 27th minute when Warren Creavalle pounced on a loose ball in the box, firing a shot from seven yards out which a diving Dykstra did very well to deflect away from goal. Giovinco’s quality was once again on display at the half-hour mark when he and Toronto defender Justin Morrow combined on another solid chance, with the former Juventus forward turning on the jets to pass Opare before once again missing inches wide of the far post.
Giovinco’s third time was his charm. Finding himself on the end of a ball at the far edge of the box, the “Atomic Ant” brought the service down before cutting right, then left, then passing by United defender Sean Franklin and using a sliver of daylight to fire a bullet to the near post, beating Dykstra for his sixth goal of 2015.
Neither team seemed anxious to grab the game-winner in the second half -- Opare managed to find the back of the net ten minutes into it, but the goal was disallowed on an offside call.
Giovinco, however, would break the doldrums, and his second goal — the game-winner — was even better than his first. TFC midfielder Benoit Cheyrou played a lovely switch to the Italian about 30 yards from goal — Altidore, who entered the game in the 80th minute, wisely dummied over the pass and allowed it to find it’s way through.
The final hit was breathtaking, a 25-yard, right-footed blast that knuckled and dipped past Dykstra, who was at full stretch. He never had a chance.
After playing six games in just over three weeks, United will finally get a breather -- a full week of rest before taking on Orlando City SC on Sunday. Toronto will get an even longer break, taking next week off before welcoming New York City FC to BMO Field on the 20th.