Coach Ben Olsen did not emerge from the locker room for almost 40 minutes — three times longer than usual.
When the doors did swing open, most everyone spoke in generalities about the postgame gathering. Opinions had been voiced and emotions had risen.
“It was basically an open forum for discussion of what is going on,” captain Dwayne De Rosario said. “It’s basically the same conversation we have had in the past. That’s in here, that’s among the players, and we’ll keep it that way.”
Asked why it had taken him so long to emerge from the locker room, Olsen said with a grin: “I was just catching up with Nellie,” referring to Toronto Coach Ryan Nelsen, his teammate on United’s 2004 MLS championship squad.
United (3-17-5) took the lead on De Rosario’s sensational 30-yard goal in the 10th minute but relinquished Bobby Convey’s equalizer in the 60th.
“We keep making the same mistakes. It’s been very frustrating,” Dejan Jakovic said, emphasizing “very” as he spoke. Afterward, “we just talked about the game — what went wrong, what we could have done and why it keeps happening to us.”
Jakovic was among the culprits. He attempted a back-heel clearance deep in United’s end, allowing Reggie Lambe to take possession and cross to Convey for a 12-yard one-timer.
“You can certainly start there,” Olsen said of the mistakes in conceding the goal. “We didn’t put out the fire” at the end of the sequence.
Repeating a year-long theme, Olsen said: “You’ve got to realize every play matters. You can’t pick and choose which play you make – [which one] in the right way and which one you are not fully there mentally.”
The draw against Toronto (4-12-9) dampened an evening that began so well in front of 13,927. De Rosario had not scored in league play since mid-June and each of his previous goals had come on set pieces.
This one rekindled memories from the 2011 MVP campaign, when, upon his mid-season acquisition from New York, he scored several magnificent goals and almost carried United to the playoffs.
This one carried personal weight: He learned his craft on the streets of Scarborough, a section of east Toronto, and left his hometown club in early 2011 on sour terms after two years.
Saturday’s sequence began harmlessly on the left side. With two defenders impeding his path, De Rosario pulled the ball back and shifted to his right. In search of a pocket of space, he dodged challenges by Lambe and Jonathan Osorio.
When he found room, well beyond the top of the box, he stung a right-footed shot while falling back. It rose and swerved out of goalkeeper Joe Bednik’s reach and splashed into the upper right corner of the net.
De Rosario tested Bednik again on a wicked strike from distance in the waning moments of the half. This time, the leaping Toronto keeper touched it away.
In between De Rosario’s direct threats, United’s Nick DeLeon and Toronto’s Andrew Wiedeman missed quality chances, and Luis Silva and Conor Doyle were unable to finish De Rosario’s dangerous cross through the six-yard box.
Despite the lead, D.C. was conceding too much possession and space. The issues caught up to United on Convey’s goal.
Bednik preserved the tie in the 67th minute with a remarkable reflex save on Luis Silva’s flying side-volley from point-blank range. Two minutes later, he denied De Rosario’s distant effort directed toward the near corner.
Said Olsen: “It’s not an easy tie to take.”