|Toronto FC's Javier Martina battles for the ball with DC United's Marc Murch. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
TORONTO - Just when things looked like they were coming together a bit for Toronto FC, the team was horrendous in a 3-0 home loss to D.C. United on Saturday night.
Toronto’s worst start of the season doomed it, despite a spirited second-half, most of which was spent with a man down.
A puzzling lineup decision by head coach Aron Winter hurt the Reds. Winter put Jacob Peterson — who had looked solid as a defensive midfielder so far this season — on defence and it backfired almost immediately.
Five minutes in, D.C.’s Chris Pontius turned Peterson inside-out and fired a shot past Stefan Frei.
Returned to the midfield in the second half, Peterson was much better and nearly headed in a pair of goals — one of which was booted off of the goal line in the 78th minute.
TFC looked flat and uninspired after captain Maicon Santos was denied in the opening minute and dropped to 1-2-3.
Toronto showed little spark offensively and shot itself in the foot repeatedly at the other end.
In the 10th minute, a terrible giveaway by defender Danleigh Borman led to D.C.’s second goal.
Josh Wolff stole the ambitious pass and closed in on Frei, who made his best save of the season, kicking his foot out.
Unfortunately for the Reds, MLS scoring leader Charlie Davies was there to put in his fifth of the season.
To make matters worse, standout Toronto defender Adrian Cann was injured during the sequence and had to leave the game in favour of Nana Attakora because of bruised ribs.
D.C. had three shots on goal to Toronto’s one in the first half.
For the second game in a row here against D.C. United, TFC was showered with boos — as it left the field — from the 16,313 on hand.
When D.C. embarrassed Toronto late last season, management responded by turfing general manager Mo Johnston and head coach Preki.
Winter need not worry about that, but he surely will be thinking about his lineup decisions.
On the bright side, 18-year-old Toronto native Oscar Cordon made his first start for the Reds and was one of the team’s more dangerous attackers, resulting in his selection as TFC’s man of the match.
Any hope of a Toronto comeback was snuffed out when defender Ty Harden picked up a red card for a dangerous tackle early in the second half.
TFC had appeared a man short even before it actually became a man short.
Strangely, Toronto looked better than it had all night once Harden was sent off. The team controlled the play and pressured D.C. repeatedly, but could not beat keeper Bill Hamid.
The numbers game caught up to the tired Reds in the 73rd minute, when Pontius made a nice move to again beat Frei.
The Reds were once again without leading scorer Alan Gordon and he was missed.
The team will have a week off to recover before facing the Columbus Crew at BMO next Saturday.