D.C. United vs. Toronto FC: Charlie Davies gets first start, scores fifth goal as Washington wins


Charlie Davies, making his first start for the team, celebrates his goal that gave United a 2-0 lead in the 10th minute of play as Toronto FC goalie Stefan Frei, left, and teammate Danleigh Borman lie in a dejected heap. (Chris Young/Associated Press)

Regardless of the outcome Saturday, D.C. United’s visit to BMO Field was going to be notable because Charlie Davies was starting a consequential match for the first time in 18 months. But as the cold, damp evening unfolded, the game turned into much more for United.

Chris Pontius snapped out of a 10-month drought by scoring twice. Davies added his fifth goal of the season. A trio of rookie defenders closed out the game. And with a 3-0 victory over Toronto FC, United enjoyed its most lopsided away win since September 2007.

With two goals in the first 10 minutes, United (2-2-1) set the tone and, except for a lull early in the second half, never loosened its grip in front of 16,313 disgusted observers.

“It shows some maturation, coming on the road and starting so well,” forward Josh Wolff said. “We wanted to put our stamp on it. We put ourselves as the aggressor from minute one and got rewarded with three goals — and it could’ve been four or five.”

Toronto’s performance was as unstable as the weather. Besides yielding the early goals, Toronto (1-2-3) lost both starting center backs: Adrian Cann to injury and Ty Harden to a red card in the 49th minute. Coming off an emotional mid-week match against the Los Angeles Galaxy, the hosts buckled under United’s aggression.

“Our front-runners and midfield in particular did a lot of work in the early moments and set a tone,” D.C. Coach Ben Olsen said. “It was going to be a long day for them.”

It began with Pontius surging past Jacob Peterson and striking a low, 16-yard shot into the far corner for United’s first goal before halftime this season.

“Finally,” huffed Pontius, who hadn’t scored since a two-goal effort at Seattle in the middle of his injury-plagued 2010 season. “Scoring so early, it takes a lot of pressure off of you. The game is not as tight. It made things a lot easier for us.”

With United applying pressure all over the field, Toronto couldn’t afford a mistake. Danleigh Borman, however, provided one.

Davies intercepted a dreadful ball near midfield and accelerated into space. His touch was a bit heavy, drawing two defenders, but he recovered in time to slide the ball ahead to Wolff. Stefan Frei made a fine foot save, but Davies swept in the rebound from nine yards.

After coming off the bench in three games and sitting out another with an injury, Davies played 90 minutes before leaving in added time with what he described as “the cramp of a lifetime.”

When Davies was awarded the starting assignment, “I just thought, ‘All right, now’s my chance to show what I can do.’ It feels great when all the guys come up to you and say, ‘You made a difference, you were a key guy.’ ”

After the break, there was no let-up from United. Wolff’s clever flick into a channel connected with Pontius, who was upended just outside the box by Harden. Referee Mark Kadlecik reached for his red card.

United captain Dax McCarty should’ve done better on a counterattack, failing to link with overlapping Fred. The squandered opportunity was a lifeline for Toronto, which promptly attacked with vigor and threatened to halve the deficit before the 65-minute mark.

United right back Chris Korb blocked Jacob Peterson’s header from close distance and Toronto’s Maicon Santos narrowly missed.

After weathering the brief uprising, United sealed the outcome in the 73rd minute. Fred pushed the ball wide to Pontius, who executed a tight cutback on Dan Gargan and stung a 15-yarder into the far side. Toronto supporters began heading for the exits.

“It was a quality effort,” Olsen said. “There’s a lot we can improve — a lot more — and that’s the exciting part.”

United notes: Midfielder Andy Najar was scratched from the game-day roster with flu-like illness. It’s unclear whether he contracted it from defender Perry Kitchen, who, upon his return from U.S. duty in Guatemala, was sidelined most of the week.

Ethan White, who made his league debut last weekend, replaced Kitchen for the second consecutive match. Kitchen entered in the 64th minute for Dejan Jakovic. Late in the game, White cleared a shot off the goal line for the second straight week. . . .

United will face the archrival New York Red Bulls (2-1-2) on Thursday night at RFK Stadium.

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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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