More changes, another D.C. United victory

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D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

D.C. United 3, Toronto FC 1

 

D.C. United got the most out of yet another lineup adjustment while Toronto FC sunk further in its historically awful start to the 2011 season.

With a decisive 3-1 victory in perfect late spring conditions before 14,287 at RFK Stadium, United (7-4-3) picked up its fifth win in seven games and its second two-game winning streak of the season – after it took nearly three years to record its first. It also extended its winning streak at home to four games and its unbeaten run overall to seven to keep pace with New York and overtook Sporting Kansas City to claim second place in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, having already secured the worst start in Major League Soccer’s 17-year history, Toronto (0-9-0) moved within one match of the longest losing streak, too.

It also came in D.C.’s third match in nine days with a host of changes to a team battling injuries and fatigue. Dwayne De Rosario, the only United player to have started every match this season, scored United’s first two goals, and the circumstances that brought about a number of changes led to them both.

“We have players that can adjust and adapt, and I think that’s the most important thing,” De Rosario said. “We have guys that can play in numerous positions on the fly. We saw that tonight. Guys stepped in and stepped up.”

It took just 57 seconds to get on the board. Branko Boskovic delivered an immaculate free kick into the box, where Dwayne De Rosario got by Ashtone Morgan for a leaning header and a 1-0 lead. The fourth-fastest goal in franchise history was notable also for Boskovic earning his first MLS assist – nearly two years after his arrival. Then again, it was also his first set of consecutive starts this season.

“He’s done himself very well the last two games,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “... We’ve done him a little bit of an injustice in that he hasn’t played a lot of minutes. He’s been 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there and filling roles for us. That’s no way to get a rhythm. That’s not an easy way to play, but he’s been a pro about it, and he’s gotten his chance the last two games, and he’s done a great job.”

When Danny Cruz went down with a hamstring injury midway through the first half, Dejan Jakovic entered the game for his first appearance in more than a month. D.C. also tweaked its formation midmatch to better handle Toronto’s 4-3-3 attack.

Control was firm when De Rosario got his fifth goal in six games – he didn’t score in United’s first eight matches – just before the break. Josh Wolff, making his first start of the season, cut into the middle, received a ball from the back and pushed it wide to unmarked Chris Korb on the right wing. The second year right back laid an easy ball across the goal to De Rosario a tap-in finish past former United goalkeeper Milos Kocic.

Korb’s third career assist gave De Rosario his 98th goal in MLS matches. Only six players have scored more than 100 goals in league history.

United’s defining moment, however, came after it began the second half on its heels and eventually gave up a loose goal to the Canadian side, which was energetic despite having played in Vancouver three days earlier. When Julian de Guzman’s ball over the top found Danny Koevermans for an close-range finish in the 71st minute, the tenor of the evening appeared to change.

But momentum was firmly reestablished in less than two minutes when De Rosario kept a seemingly harmless ball alive in the corner. Andy Najar then dazzled with his skills in the box, cutting a ball back across the box to Hamdi Salihi for the Albanian sharpshooter’s fourth goal in five games.

“We would like to keep going at teams and not take so much pressure on our defense,” United defender Daniel Woolard said. “When we get a lead, I think that’s something that we could do better and keep going at teams to put them away without having that chance. But it’s great to see us respond like that.”

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