D.C. United out-possessed Toronto FC. They moved the ball more accurately. At times, they managed to put themselves in dangerous spots. The final ball just wasn't there.
Though Saturday afternoon's 1-0 loss at BMO Field was a marked improvement on United's dismal 3-0 loss against Columbus in their season opener, D.C. once again found themselves left wanting, another game gone by without a single goal scored. After their 14th consecutive league match without a win, many in United's dressing room took little comfort in their progress.
"Whether it’s the final ball or the final play, a lot of times when you lead teams that’s the last to come and the hardest part to do - putting the ball in the net,” noted United head coach Ben Olsen after the match. "But that’s not an excuse; we gotta find a way to do it."
Johnson has made a living on the receiving end of well-delivered balls into the box – but more often than not found himself outside the 18 on Saturday, forced to drift wide or run at defenders. Espindola's attempts at goal were equally fruitless, as the Argentinian struggled to connect with his strike partner or anybody else in the box.
The pitch at BMO field – left in very poor shape by a recent snowfall and spell of particularly frigid temperatures – didn't help matters either. D.C. midfielders Nick Deleon and Luis Silva both seemed unable to pull the trigger on several chances, and at times the ground beneath them seemed largely to blame. That, however, was something Toronto had to deal with as well, something many were quick to note after the match.
"We didn’t create enough room to have shots,” said Silva, "but the field didn’t help that either. They did well to stay organized at the back and it was tough for us to break down."
For the time being, D.C. will likely take comfort in their unfamiliarity - with seven new starters, perhaps their offensive troubles will be alleviated over time as players grow more accustomed to each other. It's a possibility, but Olsen didn't seem particularly interested in entertaining it after Saturday's match.
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"Other teams that are new and not yet jelling are [scoring goals],” Olsen added. "So we got to find a way to add that to a lot of the positives we saw today. Our defensive shape was better today; our commitment and aggressiveness were elevated. Hopefully we can score some goals this coming week."