WASHINGTON -- Two teams writing improbable comeback stories met at RFK stadium on Wednesday evening.
After a 2013 that saw them finish second-to-last in the Eastern Conference, perennial cellar-dwellars Toronto FC entered the match in playoff position.
D.C. United -- the only team that finished lower than TFC in the east last year -- took the pitch on Wednesday in the midst of an even more noteworthy change in form: the black-and-red have gone from worst to first.
The win leaves United within a point of first place Sporting Kansas City with a game in hand and leaves them eleven points clear of TFC, who remain in third.
Johnson’s strike came just eight minutes into an eventful first half.
United midfielder Perry Kitchen collected a pass on the right flank, taking a touch towards the end line before crossing the ball to Johnson, who found himself perfectly positioned to comfortably nod the ball home from six yards out. After a slow start, Johnson has found the back of the net in three consecutive matches.
TFC nearly equalized a minute later. US national team standout Michael Bradley collected the ball just outside the box, playing a perfectly weighted through ball to Dominic Oduro. Oduro’s finish left a bit to be desired, however, as the former Columbus Crew midfielder’s attempt skimmed just wide of the far post.
D.C. looked to double their lead in the 32nd minute, but Rolfe’s headed attempt found the wrong side of the near post. About five minutes later, Oduro and Bradley combined again, with similar results -- the Ghanaian’s attempt was dealt with expertly by United keeper Bill Hamid.
TFC took another stab at equalizing in the opening moments of a more slow-paced second half as Jermain Defoe played his strike partner Luke Moore through from the top of the box. Moore’s chipped effort found its way directly into the hands of Hamid.
Rolfe doubled United’s lead in the sixtieth minute. United midfielder Nick DeLeon cut into the area and looked to have earned a penalty kick after being fouled by Warren Creavalle. Referee Chris Penso, however, wisely played the advantage and Rolfe ran onto the ball, striking a blistering shot from 16 yards out and easily beating TFC keeper Joe Bendik.
Seven minutes later, D.C. put the game out of reach with a bit of help from rookie of the year candidate Nick Hagglund. DeLeon bossed TFC defender Justin Morrow off the ball 20 yards from goal, rounded Hagglund and struck a shot towards goal. His attempt caromed off Bendik, and Hagglund’s attempt at a headed clearance found its way into his own net.
D.C. will hit the road to face the Houston Dynamo on Sunday evening, while TFC will remain on the road, traveling to face the Impact in Montreal.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Bill Hamid||Scoreline was lopsided, but Hamid played a big role in that, notching eight saves on the night to preserve shutout|
|2||Chris Rolfe||With Espindola out injured, Rolfe has taken up mantle as scorer-playmaker for D.C., putting in another fine performance|
|3||Eddie Johnson||Was especially dangerous in the first half, and his goal helped settle the hosts and ultimately cruise to victory|