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Preview: Toronto FC travels to D.C. United hoping to end five-match drought

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The Reds are looking to pick up their first road win in 2021.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC
Toronto FC will have the services of Yeferson Soteldo once again as the winger has worked his way back to full fitness.
Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO, Canada—TFC head on the road this weekend searching for a way to end their five game losing streak when they match up against D.C. United. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 PM EST and can be watched on TSN.

It was back to the drawing board for Chris Armas and his squad after yet another disappointing defeat last weekend. In the wake of last week’s 2-0 loss to FC Cincinnati, and heading into this weekend, nothing changes for the Reds as their goal remains the same - find a way to get three points, any way possible.

In fact, even a point may be seen as an accomplishment. In the midst of a five match drought where the Reds have failed to pick up a single point, they now find themselves in the basement of the league.

With Alejandro Pozuelo’s absence last week, we saw the offence struggle once again. It was another match where the Reds could only muster a single shot on target with their most creative option unavailable. Speaking to the media ahead of the weekend, head coach Chris Armas does believe that the 2020 MLS MVP should be available for selection. The Spaniard is currently listed as questionable in the club’s injury report, so what role Pozuelo plays remains to be seen.

Along with Ifunyachi Achara, who is out long-term with an ACL injury, Nick De Leon (thigh), Justin Morrow (low back), and Quentin Westberg (hand) will all be unavailable for selection.

One name not on the list is Yeferson Soteldo. Soteldo, who was also unavailable through injury for the last few matches, looks set for his return this weekend after his Venezuelan side was eliminated from Copa America on Sunday.

Even if Armas chooses not to risk Pozuelo this week, the addition of Soteldo could be a big boost for the offence as the Venezualen has shown he can create something out of nothing in his first few matches. With the dire situation facing the Reds, Armas may not be able to be as cautious as he wants to be with Pozuelo’s return which may in fact mean Reds fans will be able to watch the Pozuelo and Soteldo combine on the pitch together for the first time since Soteldo joined the club.

Toronto’s opponent this weekend may be the perfect antidote to help pick up at least a point. Each of the Reds last four matchups against D.C. have ended in a draw, most recently in 2020 where the two sides played to a 2-2 draw at Audi Field. After conceding an early goal that night, Pozuelo found the back of the net to level the score in the first-half. Ayo Akinola scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second, only to be pegged back late in the second-half.

Toronto and D.C United do have some similarities this season. Both clubs had changes at their head coaching positions coming into the 2021 season. D.C. United appointed head coach Hernan Losada in January, and made Losada the youngest head coach currently in the MLS. But that’s where the similarities end. While the Reds have struggled, D.C. have fared decently well under a new head coach.

Under Losada this season, D.C. United have seen something of a resurgence in 2021. Through 11 games this season, the club currently finds themselves in eighth, just outside of a playoff spot and can match their win total (5) from last season, with a win against the Reds this weekend.

After seeing their two-match winning streak end last week, D.C. United will be looking for a bounce back of their own. United fell 2-1 to New York City FC conceding two late goals, after leading for most of the match last weekend.

The Reds defence has been disastrous this season conceding early goals and making sloppy mistakes. So far this season, the Reds have conceded six of their 20 goals inside the first 15 minutes of games, including in their last two matches. As has happened in the last two weeks, D.C. United will be looking to score early and the first half is certainly their strong point.

United have scored 10 goals through 11 matches so far this season, with Ola Kamara leading the way scoring four goals so far. Of the 10 goals, D.C. have scored six of those goals in the first half, and three in the first 15 minutes of play.

D.C. will be willing participants to score early and defend if the Reds defence falters again and are more than comfortable defending their lead. While scoring first so far this season, D.C. United have a 3-1-0 record including a 2-0-0 record at home. Conceding first is a habit TFC have to break, but more so when their opponent is able to defend with a lead.

Speaking ahead of their weekend matchup with Toronto FC, full-back Kemar Lawrence was insistent that the club has put more focus on the defensive side of their game in training this week and that the mistakes of the last few weeks will not be repeated.

While it’s positive to hear improvements in the Reds game is coming, until we see it happen on the pitch it’s all meaningless. The only thing that matters now is picking up points, starting with Saturday in D.C.

How to watch:

Opponent: D.C United
Kick-off: 5:30 PM EST
Venue: Audi Field
Watch: TSN