United takes early lead but falls in 2-1 loss to Toronto FC


United's Lionard Pajoy, left, leans into the defense of Toronto's Gale Agbossoumonde. United took the lead in a regular season match for the first time in three months but fell to Toronto, 2-1. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

D.C. United offered a glimmer of hope Saturday night, taking the lead in a regular season match for the first time in three months.

“We started the game off right,” midfielder Nick DeLeon said. “Unfortunately, it’s the same story.”

And the same troubling chapters: a free kick followed by an own goal and a toothless attack. The outcome: a 2-1 loss to Toronto FC in front of 13,846 at RFK Stadium that extended United’s winless streak to 13.

“We just didn’t play good in any facet of the game,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “We looked tired. They had a lot more energy than us. . . . Some of the guys that came into the game, some of the newer guys looked a little confused.”

All of this against an opponent that, like United, had not won since March 9.

Dwayne De Rosario converted a penalty kick in the 19th minute for United (1-11-3), but Toronto (2-7-5) scored twice late in the opening half.

Coming off a draw at New England and a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia in the U.S. Open Cup, United coaches and players believed the worst was behind them. They were wrong.

“Everybody is just shaking their heads at this point, [saying] ‘What the hell?’ ” defender Brandon McDonald said.

United went ahead on De Rosario’s 102nd career regular season goal (sixth on MLS’s all-time list). DeLeon drew the call, embarking on a 40-yard run before being bumped by Gale Agbossoumonde as he entered the box.

The last time United led in a regular season game was the second week of the season, when Lionard Pajoy scored in the 60th minute of a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.

This advantage lasted only 11 minutes. Steven Caldwell’s free kick from his end seemed harmless enough, a long ball with ample warning. With a five-inch deficit, Robert Earnshaw climbed McDonald’s back and nodded an eight-yarder beyond the reach of goalkeeper Bill Hamid and off the inside of the near post for his sixth goal.

Eleven minutes later, Luis Silva served a troublesome free kick from 40 yards deep into the box. In trying to clear from harm’s way, Daniel Woolard headed it into his own net.

Joe Bendik preserved the lead early in the second half, thwarting DeLeon and De Rosario with fine saves. Casey Townsend, one of three substitutes to enter in the first 25 minutes after intermission, whistled a 22-yarder narrowly wide.

But those opportunities were not the product of sustained pressure, and as the match melted away, United had little to offer.

Typical of United’s misfortune, Woolard took a late elbow to the head and was bleeding profusely. For several minutes, while the medical staff patched him up, United played short-handed because all three subs had been exhausted.

“The losses are starting to hurt more and more and more,” De Leon said.

United notes: Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto (five starts) was released Friday night. . . . Forward Michael Seaton, 17, was named to the game-day roster for the first time but did not play.

Spirit falls in front of 4,569

Veronica Perez and Vicki DiMartino scored in the first half as the Western New York Flash defeated the Washington Spirit, 2-0, in a National Women’s Soccer League match before 4,569 at Maryland SoccerPlex.

The Spirit (1-5-3) played without Ali Krieger (U.S. national team) and Diana Matheson and Robyn Gayle (Canada), while the Flash (5-2-2) was missing Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd (U.S. squad).

Washington has lost three straight, all by shutout. The Flash extended its unbeaten streak to 5-0-1.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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