De Rosario again carries DC amid controversy, fatigue

Dwayne De Rosario and Joao Plata.

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WASHINGTON — Down a man for nearly 90 minutes, D.C. United didn’t wilt in the face of controversy or fatigue, fighting to grab a point against Toronto FC thanks to a Dwayne De Rosario hat trick.

A moment of confusion with the officials on Toronto’s second goal left the team baffled and scratching their heads in the aftermath, but head coach Ben Olsen didn’t want it to spoil the perseverance his team showed in their 3-3 draw.

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“I’m proud of the way the guys fought tonight, there was a lot of character, a lot of guys could have quit, but they kept going,” he said.

De Rosario’s heroics were badly needed after DC went down a man in just the seventh minute. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid — two days after getting his first call into the US men’s national team — went in on a sliding challenge to try and clear the ball away from an on-rushing Eric Avila. But as he went down, defender Brandon McDonald cleared the ball away and out of bounds.

Hamid followed through and made contact, sending the Toronto midfielder tumbling to the turf, and received his marching orders from referee Jasen Anno for his efforts.

“We know what went wrong with that play, but it’s early in the game, you just have to be tuned in every play whether it’s three minutes in or late,” Olsen said. “That play cost us.”

Enter De Rosario to the rescue, as the attacker laced a shot from 25 yards out in the 18th minute to give DC a 1-0 lead. After Toronto tied the game in the second half, De Rosario grabbed his brace — Andy Iro misplayed a cross from Chris Pontius and De Rosario pounced, taking possession and rounding goalie Stefan Frei to score a second.

But Toronto would equalize again, thanks in part to a crazy substitution sequence in the 69th minute. McDonald was on the sideline receiving treatment and when the ball went out, the fourth official lifted his board for White to come in as a sub.

However, the ref didn’t stop the game, appearing to only waive White on while Toronto threw the ball in without him entering. With the rookie three steps onto the field, Julian de Guzman capitalized on the space in the DC defense to lash home an effort past substitute goalie Steve Cronin from 20 yards away.

“I’ve never seen that happen before,” Pontius said. “I don’t think a lot of our guys have. There’s no explanation from the ref, he says he waves them in but you only do that with the guy who re-enters off the field because of an injury or something happened.”

Olsen was ejected after that goal for launching into a furious protest. When Toronto scored again in the 86th minute to take the lead, De Rosario came to the rescue once again, getting a hat trick after Iro took down Austin da Luz in the box.

Hamid, distressed after putting his team in a hole early on, was pleased to see United respond and battle for the result.

“I’m happy that the guys played extremely hard,” he said. “They fought all 90 minutes and they put the ball in the back of the net and we walked out of here with a result. The guys did a wonderful job.”

Added De Rosario: “It’s frustrating, but [I’m] definitely pleased [about] the fight and the desire, and the heart that the guys showed for 95 minutes. Playing a man down against any team isn’t easy.”

De Rosario now has nine goals on the season, six of which have come with DC.