Ben Olsen left almost all of D.C. United’s regulars at home Saturday, saving them for the U.S. Open Cup final three days later.
The reserves were fine for a half before fading after intermission and dropping a 4-1 result to Toronto FC at BMO Field, extending the club’s road rut to 0-13-3.
Jared Jeffrey scored a sensational goal from distance in the 15th minute for United (3-21-6), but Darel Russell tied it 10 minutes later on a superb volley.
In the second half, Toronto (5-15-11) scored twice in a four-minute span before tacking on a late goal in ending an eight-game winless streak.
“Obviously, the lineup had a lot to do with Tuesday’s Open Cup fixture,” Olsen said. “I set these guys up to fail today, it’s pretty simple. We hung in there for about 60 minutes and then I got some guys out that were maybe going to factor into Tuesday’s game and now I’m putting guys out of position. You start adding those up and you are playing a real team in the MLS and that’s what can happen.”
If United does not win at Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 18, it will become the fifth club in MLS history to fail to secure a victory on the road. United has been outscored 29-6 in away matches.
Olsen’s priority Saturday, though, was resting his key players ahead of Tuesday’s tournament final at Real Salt Lake.
Six starters against Toronto were age 23 or under, including three youth academy graduates: defender Conor Shanosky, 21, midfielder Collin Martin, 18, and forward Michael Seaton, 17. Only three starters — defender Daniel Woolard, midfielder Kyle Porter and forward Lionard Pajoy — had been in the lineup more than 10 times this season.
Pajoy had not started since early July. Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa‘s previous appearance was in May.
Saragosa moved to the backline at the start of the second half, replacing Woolard, who was returning from a hamstring injury. Sainey Nyassi, an attack-minded winger, started at right back. Olsen had just five available substitutes — two fewer than a typical game-day roster.
Bad teams, bad game, bad crowd … but two terrific goals in the first 25 minutes.
United went ahead in the 15th. Jeffrey, in his return from an ankle injury, settled a headed clearance and curled a left-footed, 30-yard shot just inside the left post for his second goal in six regular season appearances.
Toronto answered 10 minutes later. United failed to clear a free kick from the penalty area. On the far side, with his back to the goal, Russell chested down Bobby Convey‘s deflected pass, swiveled and volleyed an angled eight-yarder past Joe Willis for his third goal.
Willis rescued United in the 34th with a reflex save on Convey’s knee-driven volley from close range.
Toronto dominated possession in the second half and went ahead in the 67th minute when Mark Bloom crossed to Bright Dike for a 10-yard volley.
Four minutes later, Shanosky deflected Alvaro Rey‘s cross past Willis for an own goal.
Rey’s clever footwork and composed finish in the 87th capped the onslaught.
DCU: Jeffrey (unassisted), 15th minute.
TFC: Russell (Convey), 25th.
TFC: Dike (Bloom), 67th.
TFC: Own goal (Shanosky), 71st.
TFC: Rey (Braun), 87th.
DCU lineup: Willis; Nyassi, Shanosky, Woolard (Doyle 46th), Kemp; Martin, Saragosa, Jeffrey (Iapichino 69th), Porter (Townsend 79th); Pajoy, Seaton.
Unused subs: Dykstra, Silva.
Did not travel: Hamid, Riley, Jakovic, White, Korb, Thorrington, Kitchen, Neal, DeLeon, Pontius, De Rosario, Ruiz.