United happy to earn a draw

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - D.C. UNITED 0, TORONTO FC 0 BY STEVEN GOFF

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.

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