When Toronto FC ventures into Washington today, it marks the third consecutive game in which the prize is a perch atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Get used to it. This, says the Reds' Sam Cronin, is the way it's going to be for the rest of the season.
"Everyone is so close. It just shows everybody can beat anybody," he said.
Going into weekend games, four teams are within two points of the lead. Last year the only team TFC beat consistently was itself. There always was talk about how it would have to stop the other team's star. But with just two losses in eight starts, this is a team that believes in itself. Suddenly United star Emilio looks eminently beatable.
"It's not a case of us worrying about them, or what an individual can do against us. We'll let them worry about us -- a lot of people are talking about us," coach Chris Cummins said.
While TFC hasn't been an offensive powerhouse, the attack no longer revolves around just Danny Dichio and Amado Guevara. Cronin set up a goal, and Kevin Harmse and Chad Barrett scored winners the past two games. Dwayne DeRosario and Pablo Vitti have added a new dimension to the attack.
"We've got more numbers attacking now," Dichio said. "Previously it was not so much negative football but I was up front by myself or Chad was up by himself and we didn't support the front guys. Now we have Pablo coming in from one side, Chad from one side and De Ro ... it opens up options so defenders are wondering where we're going to attack from. Previously it was either a ball to me or the point guy and teams were reading us. Now we're coming in from different angles and we've got guys who can play on the ball. When DeRo has the ball, he worries defenders."
Today's game has the potential for offensive fireworks. Last year the teams combined for 11 goals in three games.
"The best defence is to attack," Cummins said.
Dichio, who scored three of those goals, admits he enjoys playing D.C.
"It's a nice, big open field and it's grass. It's a nice place to go because D.C. plays attacking football and that also gives us a chance to open them up with Amado ... and the guys we have up front."
Adrian Serioux (strained neck), who missed Wednesday's CONCACAF qualifier, is available.
"I feel a lot better than I thought I would. If I have to get out there I can ... I've been a soldier all my life," he said.
Cummins was coy about announcing his starting lineup ahead of time. "I like it because it keeps players on their toes," Dichio said. "You're not guaranteed a spot for the next game because the manager is going to put out who is training well and who looks sharp."