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For D.C. United, draw with Toronto FC feels like a loss

Taxi Fountas has a step on Toronto FC's Kosi Thompson in the second half at Audi Field. (Tony Quinn for The Washington Post)
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The MLS Eastern Conference standings will show that D.C. United gained a point from its 2-2 draw with Toronto FC on Saturday at sweltering Audi Field. By any other measure, though, the match felt like a crushing defeat.

From squandering two leads to missing opportunities and ultimately conceding Jonathan Osorio’s 89th-minute equalizer, United bungled a golden chance to secure three points against a free-falling foe.

“Massive disappointment,” captain Steven Birnbaum said. “We’re dropping points at home. It should’ve been a win, no doubt about it. We didn’t see the game out. It’s a blow, that’s for sure.”

The defeat capped a lost week that began with a 2-2 comeback draw at Inter Miami and a 2-0 home setback to reigning champion New York City FC.

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On Saturday, before a season-high crowd of 18,320, United (4-6-2) went ahead early in each half on goals by Edison Flores in the seventh minute and Michael Estrada in the 56th. But Toronto (3-7-3) tied the match before halftime and pulled even again when goalkeeper Bill Hamid spilled a rebound to Osorio for a sliding finish.

“We need to stop making mistakes,” said interim coach Chad Ashton, who is 2-2-2 since he replaced Hernán Losada last month. “That is a game we need to walk away with three points.”

On the buildup to the late equalizer, Ashton cited United being “naive and not understanding what’s dangerous, what’s not dangerous. Simple mistakes.”

He also was critical of Hamid, the longtime starter who is being pressed for playing time by newcomer Rafael Romo.

“We need somebody to step up and make saves, bail us out rather than give up a rebound,” Ashton said. “We’re giving up soft goals. Yeah, he should be able to push that rebound out wide. Is it easy to do? No, but he’s more than capable.”

Hamid said Jordan Perruzza “smacked it pretty hard. It turned into a reaction save. I got something behind it. Unfortunately [Osorio] got to it.”

Toronto ended a five-game losing streak and left with a much better feeling than after its previous visit to Buzzard Point, a 7-1 defeat last summer.

“We can’t keep dropping points,” midfielder Chris Durkin said. “We need to see these games out better.”

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Against a wounded foe, United set the terms and went ahead early. Taxi Fountas supplied Estrada for a right-side push and low cross that connected, with Flores capitalizing on a central channel between two defenders.

From the edge of the six-yard box, he easily touched in his first goal since September and third in 41 MLS matches. Flores only made it to halftime, though. Ashton said he was tired.

As the first half unfolded, United lost its bite. Defender Tony Alfaro tried doing too much and lost the ball 35 yards out. The visitors pounced. Jesús Jiménez laid the ball off to Ayo Akinola for a clear finish from 14 yards, ending Toronto’s scoreless streak at 330 minutes.

“We’re in trouble — just throw the thing in the other end,” Ashton said. “Let’s get organized and let’s defend.”

United reclaimed the lead 10 minutes into the second half. Fountas settled Julian Gressel’s long ball and poked it off advancing goalkeeper Alex Bono. On the back side, Estrada ushered it into the net for his fourth goal.

Hamid preserved the lead by blocking Akinola’s blast with his jaw. D.C.'s counterattacks failed to put the match away, and although United still seemed well positioned to polish off the game, it wobbled at the end.

D.C. will visit the rival New York Red Bulls next weekend before entering a three-week pause in the league schedule.

“We need three points before the break,” Birnbaum said. “We need to start picking up some wins, especially in games like tonight where I felt like we were the better team. For them to come in here and sneak away with a point just disgusts me.”

Here’s what else to know about D.C. United’s draw:

Perez’s absence extended

Forward Adrien Perez suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken foot, undergoing an additional procedure this past week. He is out indefinitely. Perez, who started 10 times last year and once early this season, suffered a fracture last summer and reinjured it this spring.

Defensive midfielder Russell Canouse (eight starts this season) was unavailable because of a hamstring injury suffered Wednesday.

International call-ups

Flores was summoned by the Peruvian national team for a World Cup playoff June 13 in Qatar against Australia or the United Arab Emirates. Estrada will report to the Ecuadoran squad for friendlies against Nigeria on June 2 in Harrison, N.J.; Mexico on June 5 in Chicago; and Iran on June 11 in Toronto.

Fountas was called for Greece’s four UEFA Nations League matches June 2-12.

United does not have any regular season matches between May 29 and June 17 but has Capital Cup exhibition games at Audi Field against Águila (El Salvador) on June 1 and Xelajú (Guatemala) on June 7.

Talks with Dynamo Kyiv

United is in talks with famed Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv about a charity match next month at Audi Field, people inside and outside the MLS organization said. Proceeds would benefit Ukrainian relief efforts.

It remains unclear, though, whether the sides will be able to find a workable date. Dynamo is also aiming to play a second game against an MLS opponent.

With the Ukrainian league shut down since the Russian invasion, the reigning champions have been playing charity matches throughout Europe.

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