DC United ran out comfortable winners in their crunch clash with Toronto FC in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference at RFK Stadium.
The one-time North American champions netted early through Eddie Johnson, before Chris Rolfe and a Nick Hagglund own goal completed the 3-0 victory in the 59th and 67th minutes.
After occupying the bottom two places in the Conference last year, a vast change in fortunes have propelled the pair up the table, and two previous meetings this campaign had seen a win apiece.
The Black-and-Red lined up with eleven players hailing from the United States, and though none of them were selected for World Cup duty, the men from the capital were far too strong for their visitors in a fourth consecutive success.
However, the Ontarians began well.
Dominic Oduro’s pace and timely runs had tortured Sporting Kansas City’s back-line on Saturday, and was similarly played in by Michael Bradley in the seventh minute here. With just Bill Hamid to beat though, the Ghanaian couldn’t steer his shot inside the far post.
Just as at BMO Field, the Reds’ wastefulness was then punished – immediately in this case. Perry Kitchen collected Shaun Franklin’s pass inside and hit the byline, where his teasing centre was met by Johnson’s thumping header that found the corner – his third in three matches.
Despite the goal, Toronto had made the better start, and Hamid had to get a firm hand to Luke Moore’s low finish, before grabbing Jackson’s tame nod and grounded blasts from both the Brazilian and Jermain Defoe.
Bradley was also denied, but United’s attacks were carrying more threat, and Rolfe only narrowly missed the target when he flung himself at Franklin’s looped cross.
The Canadians had relied mainly on shots from range, but Bradley finally carved out another opportunity for Oduro. The former Columbus Crew forward had time to compose himself before pulling the trigger, but he let the ball escape his control and then found an All-Star stopper protecting the target.
Hamid continued to churn out save after save in the second half, next waving away Moore’s close-range dink, allowing DC to benefit and score again, via Chris Penso’s advantage. Nick DeLeon was tripped in the penalty area by debutant Warren Creavalle, and the referee impressively allowed play to continue, with Rolfe prodding past Joe Bendik.
DeLeon was soon involved again as the Black-and-Red further improved their tally. Touching the ball past Hagglund’s clumsy challenge and shooting on goal, the 24-year-old struck the goalkeeper rather than the back of the net, but the retreating defender was unable to prevent a brutal ricochet from crossing the line.
Gilberto’s winding run concluded with a blazed effort at the other end, however the withdrawal of Defoe had long since suggested that Ryan Nelsen expected no return from this game, and they didn’t danger the home goal again in the remaining minutes as United saw out a surprisingly routine win.