United happy to earn a draw
toronto — After braving relentless rain, wicked winds and the “Atomic Ant” for 90 minutes Saturday, D.C. United was plenty satisfied with a 0- 0 draw against Toronto FC before a few thousand hearty spectators at BMO Field.
All things considered — the weather, the surging opponent’s formidable attack and the travel demands — “it’s nice to come out of here with a point,” midfielder Nick DeLeon said. “We’ll take it. We’ll definitely take it.”
United (10-5-5) posted a second consecutive shutout on the road, extended its unbeaten streak to three and maintained a healthy lead atop MLS’s Eastern Conference.
Toronto (7- 6-2) was the better side, but United intervened at pivotal moments and limited the number of high-quality chances by Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco, known as the “Atomic Ant” because of his size (5 feet 4) and sudden impact at any given moment.
Three weeks after the MVP front-runner scored two terrific goals in a 2-1 victory at RFK Stadium, United did a better job reducing space and fouling him before he revved his engines. Nonetheless, from start to finish, his mix of darting runs and quick footwork threatened to smash open the deadlock.
“He’s one of the best we’ve come up against this year,” United Coach Ben Olsen said, “and one of the best I’ve come up
against in this league.”
Despite the rain, the field held up well, allowing build-up and possession better than either side could reasonably expect. The bigger issue was gusts exceeding 25 mph that affected ball movement via both air and ground.
A few minutes into the second half, the jet stream took hold of United defender Taylor Kemp’s cross and carried the ball almost to the corner flag on the far side.
“Even balls on the ground when the gusts picked up,” attacker Chris Rolfe said. “We’re kicking the ball everywhere.”
Nonetheless, United had no complaints after withstanding mounting pressure in the second half and securing its 11th point in nine away matches. This one was particularly satisfying because star-laden Toronto has lost just once in seven matches.
“It’s a good point,” Olsen said. “It’s a shutout. And we keep them at bay a little bit because they are hot team right now and they are going to be there at the top of the East.”
It was also satisfying because United is in the middle of five consecutive away games. The delegation arrived here from a midweek visit to Chicago and, after a day at home, will regroup for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup round-of-16 match at Philadelphia and Friday’s regular season showdown with Western contender Seattle.
There were other positive steps. For the first time, Olsen started Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva together, the club’s most effective front-line partnership last year. Injuries, suspensions, differing levels of form and situational factors had kept them apart for the first four months of the season.
Toronto enjoyed the better of play in the first half. United’s forays were incremental but dangerous. Silva’s 25-yard rocket tested goalkeeper Chris Konopka, and on Espindola’s ensuing corner kick, DeLeon should have done better with a six-yard heada er.
“I missed it,” he admitted. “Not the wind’s fault.”
Giovinco continued his pestering ways in the second half. His best opportunity came in the 63rd minute when he popped past two defenders and fired over the crossbar from seven yards. Four minutes later, Bill Hamid made a diving save on a venomous rip.
As time ticked away and Toronto dominated possession, United seemed intent on securing a draw. It did have a late threat when substitute Jairo Arrieta’s overhead kick forced Konopka into a leaping save, but the point mattered most.
“The amount of effort and work we put in was great,” Rolfe said, “and another sign of how good this team is.”
United notes: Midfielder Michael Farfan (hamstring) and defender Sean Franklin (Achilles’ tendinitis) are a few weeks from returning. Attacker Chris Pontius (calf ) might be back next weekend.