TORONTO — With goals and victories at a premium, a painful carryover from the rottenness of last season, D.C. United is left to measure progress with its new-fangled roster in intangible but unsubstantial ways.
But it’s a defeat, nonetheless.
“There were a lot of positives,” defender Bobby Boswell said. “Unfortunately, we are not judged on our positives; we are judged on our results.”
The results remain one-sided: 0-2-0 this season and 3-26-7 since the start of the 2013 campaign.
Asked if he could take away anything from the latest setback, Coach Ben Olsen said: “Yeah, but it still feels like [expletive]. It’s a loss. When I look at the film, I am going to see we took some real steps forward. We didn’t score a goal — it’s obviously a concern — but from the things we worked on the last two weeks, we implemented a lot of it.”
United enjoyed quality possession and build-up. But after English star Jermain Defoe scored in the 60th minute, D.C. was barely a threat.
In two games, United has not scored and placed three shots on target.
United’s Bill Hamid made several quality saves, but after thwarting Gilberto’s bid, Boswell misplaced a clearing attempt and Defoe scored easily.
Under a slate-gray sky, with the CN Tower serving as a majestic backdrop and a brisk breeze snapping banks of flags, sold-out BMO Field buzzed with anticipation. The wayward local club had poured millions of dollars into player acquisitions over the winter, restoring goodwill with supporters and creating the league’s most intriguing preseason story line.
Dreadful field conditions, the byproduct of an interminable winter, voided any hope of beautiful soccer.
United forward Fabian Espindola called the field “a disaster.”
Added Olsen: “It was as bad as I’ve ever seen in an MLS game, but both teams had to deal with it. And at times, we dealt with it pretty well.”
At times, so did Toronto (2-0-0). Defoe was denied by Hamid twice in the first half and stabbed another shot off the right post.
United shared the ball, dodged the field’s potholes, pushed diagonal passes into promising positions and drew corner kicks.
D.C. failed, though, to link a killer pass in the box.
Early in the second half, after Defoe steered an eight-yarder a whisker wide, United clamored for a red card on Toronto’s Jackson, who had elbowed Davy Arnaud in the ribs.
Referee Silviu Petrescu opted for yellow.
When MLS’s disciplinary committee reviews the play, “he could get in some serious trouble,” United forward Eddie Johnson said. “Davy isn’t a guy who exaggerates.”
Jackson had escaped a red card six minutes into the opener last weekend after a wicked tackle on Seattle’s Clint Dempsey.
Arnaud’s painful day continued in the 64th minute with a frightening head-to-head collision with Michael Bradley. The U.S. national team midfielder returned with a bandaged bald head; Arnaud was done. Bradley received 13 stitches on the back of the head, Arnaud nine above the left eye.
United’s possession did not amount to much in the last 20 minutes, keeping the club winless in regular season away matches since October 2012 in Toronto.
“There are these positives. It still hurts, though,” Olsen said. “We’ve got to find ways to win.”