On short rest, United thrilled with defense in Toronto
After conceding five goals against San Jose on Wednesday night, D.C. United entered Saturday’s match at Toronto FC with a mission: tighten up the defense.
Mission accomplished. The Black and Red waltzed out of BMO Field with a 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Chris Pontius and Hamdi Salihi.
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“Our defense was exceptional in this game,” Pontius told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game. “It wasn’t easy, especially when we didn’t have perfect travel conditions on Thursday. So for us to respond as a team, it was great.”
The short turnaround following’s Wednesday’s game in Northern California night meant coach Ben Olsen shook up his defensive lineup. The backline included Chris Korb, Daniel Woolard, and Andy Najar, all playing out of their natural positions.
And Bill Hamid returned as the starting goalkeeper for the first time since the season opener.
“Despite any changes we make on this team, we have a group of guys that are able to get the job done,” Hamid told MLSsoccer.com. “So we were confident that we could come into this game, work our tails off, and get a shutout.”
On the offensive side, Olsen’s halftime adjustments led to Pontius’s matchwinning fifth goal of the season.
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“At halftime we talked about how there was space underneath between their midfielders and their backs, and we needed to exploit it,” Pontius said. “I saw the opportunity to get in there, got faced up, and tried to hit it far post. I got a hold of it.”
With the win, United have just one loss in the past nine games. They have climbed from near the bottom of the table to second place, just behind runaway leaders Sporting Kansas City.
“We are focused,” Hamid said. “We are taking it a game at the time, and we are working our tails off in training week by week, and it’s showing in the game. And the chemistry is building off of that, and everything is gelling right now.”