That was a textbook away effort for Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon at RFK Stadium. Sebastian Giovinco did the damage on the scoreboard early, scoring the fastest goal in club history. The backline took it from there. The reds spent a good portion of the first half dealing with pressure but didn't offer DC United many serious chances. The chances that DC did get were superbly handled by goalkeeper Clint Irwin.
What might be most encouraging is the fact that TFC got stronger as the clock drained away. The tendency with the one-nil lead is to want to sit back, absorb pressure and defend like Hell. The reds did that when necessary but also pushed the ball forward and had the better of the chances in the five minutes of second half stoppage time. It was refreshing to see Toronto control the game by controlling the ball in those final moments of the match.
For once, the officiating really isn't a talking point. Mathieu Bourdeau, in only his second MLS match got most of the big calls right. Bourdeau didn't make or miss a call that would have drastically changed the outcome of this game. The yellow card issued to Jozy Altidore in the first half was a touch harsh and it looked like Giovinco had a legitimate handball appeal in the second half, but outside of that Mr. Bourdeau was solid.
Will Johnson is back! The ferocity and intensity that has been missing since his return from national team duty was on display Saturday afternoon. The tussle that Johnson got into just prior to the half-hour mark with DC midfielder Marcelo Sarvas is precisely what TFC want from Johnson. It denotes that he's fully switched on and will get under the skin of his opponents.
Johnson did a tremendous job of channelling the aggression into providing support to his backline. The Canadian international might have prevented the equalizer as the first half was drawing to a close by getting in front of a Nick DeLeon cross that was intended for Steve Birnbaum in the TFC six yard box.
The entire backline put in a shift on Saturday afternoon. The fullbacks, Morrow and Beitashour did a nice job of dealing with balls played into the box while the centreback tandem of Moor and Williams were nothing short of steady.
The best word to describe Drew Moor is steady, nothing flashy. His approach is straight-forward, he blocks shots, intercepts passes and makes his clearances. It sounds simple, but it has been Rubik's cube that Toronto FC has been trying to solve for years.
The most important thing that Clint Irwin brings to Toronto is the ability to take charge of his box. Obviously, shot stopping ability is also critical, but the reds have had good shot stoppers in the past and have still struggled to keep the ball out of the back of the net. Irwin's 84th minute punch on a cross from Taylor Kemp earmarked for the head of Alvaro Saborio might have saved the day for Toronto FC. Irwin had to be decisive in the moment as he had to come a long way out to make the play. Any indecision likely would have ended in disaster for TFC.
Little things in a football match mean so much. It won't make the highlight reel, but Sebastian Giovinco taking the pass from Altidore in second half stoppage time, slowly working his way toward the corner and drawing the foul from Nick DeLeon is worth noting. It's not just the spectacular goals that make Giovinco a special player; it's having the presence of mind to chew up as much of the five minutes of time added at the end of the second half. It also should be noted that DC United never seriously threatened to snatch an equalizer from that moment on. In fact, it was Toronto FC owning the chances in the final minutes.
The goal of reaching eight points from this grueling road trip has been achieved with two games remaining. The reds are conceding at a rate of less than a goal a game with two clean sheets in six games has to be very satisfying for all involved with TFC. More importantly, this team as a group looks to be growing together and getting better with each passing game.
With the eight points in hand at this point, every point gained from here forward on this trip is gravy. Points could be hard to come by in the next two games. Stade Saputo has been anything but kind to Toronto in recent times and with the Impact off to a flying start leading the Eastern Conference, a draw from that match next week would be an excellent result. The trip ends at the always daunting Providence Park in Portland. The Timbers have struggled early on in the defence of the MLS Cup and will be hungry to take advantage of the road-weary reds.