|Toronto FC's Eric Avila (right) and D.C. United's Perry Kitchen battle for the ball at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - With his teammates and staff still celebrating a massive win on the road, an emotionless Dwayne De Rosario stood alone in DC United’s dressing room.
Seemingly out of place after spending more than two years across the hall, he’s relieved to be out of what is clearly turning into a toxic environment.
“It’s a stressful place to be right now and I feel for (Toronto’s) fans,” the former TFC captain said. “I just encourage them to keep showing their support.”
At least a third of that support sprinted for the stadium exits yesterday when DC’s Hamdi Salihi made it 2-0 with 20 minutes to go. It was the fourth time in five matches the Reds have been shutout at home — and the record-breaking result supporters have been dreading since early April.
“It’s a tough league to turn your team around in,” said United head coach Ben Olsen, whose club sent Aron Winter’s Reds to the worst start (0-8-0) in league history. “I really feel for (Toronto FC) and the fans here because it’s such a great supporting cast.”
Referring to Toronto’s fans and the festive atmosphere at BMO Field, it’s quite a statement when Olsen — an MLS legend and former U.S. international — is just as interested in talking about the state of the opposing franchise as he is to discussing the match itself.
“We’ve been in a rut as well,” Olsen said.
The Black and Red won just six times in 2010, a number the Reds matched under Winter a season ago.
“We started to slowly figure out what kind of guys we wanted in our organization,” the DC coach continued. “We’re nowhere close to turning things around.”
But if the visitors, who sit securely in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, aren’t close to being where an MLS franchise needs to be, how far off are the Reds?
Although he promised to bring free-flowing, attack-minded soccer to the Big Smoke last season, it’s clear that Winter has the Reds playing scared. Ahead of Saturday’s match, the Dutchman clearly stated his intentions to start the match “not to lose.”
Coming off a solid showing in Salt Lake and a goalless Cup battle at Montreal, every indication was the Toronto would go for it at home, push guys forward and look for its first complete performance of the season.
Instead, it was an overly defensive display. A match that saw the club’s German captain wasted in defence while its four attackers were frustrated by the lack of options.
“You’re 0-7, why not just go for the win,” De Rosario said. “It’s supposed to be attacking-style football and they sat back … A team like that is not an 0-8 team. With the talent they have, something’s wrong (here). They’ve got good players.”
Instead of seizing the opportunity to bury his former organization, the Canadian international said he’s beyond that point. After landing at a club that was more than willing to sign his cheque, he offered what appeared to be heart-felt sympathy for a club he once said he would end his career with.
“You see (Torsten) Frings throw his captain’s arm band off and walk off the field so it will be interesting to see about that, but I know what he’s going through,” De Rosario said. “I’m with DC right now, but this is my city and it’s sad to see the state (TFC) is in right now.”
Ryan Johnson appears to be a player leading the charge against the current defensive system the club has implemented. Midway through the first half, Johnson’s screams could be heard, and seen, from as high as the BMO Field press box. The Jamaican international’s frustration was evident as he got into a shouting match with Toronto’s sideline … And it must be maddening with Danny Koevermans injured. While the club sees Johnson as an adequate replacement for TFC’s Designated Player, he simply isn’t suited to take a beating while holding off big backs like DC’s Brandon McDonald. There’s a reason Johnson hasn’t scored since the league opener in Seattle … The sequence leading up to United’s opener was something from the comics. Milos Kocic’s miss-clearance led to the corner that Reggie Lambe cleared off the line — a play he was fortunate not to be sent off for as replays showed an obvious hand ball that prevented a goal. Chris Pontius bulged the onion bag no more than 30 seconds later … It was more of the same on DC’s second. United doubled its advantage off — what else — a set piece. It was the fifth time in eight league games they’ve concede on a restart … With that, Winter’s tenure could be over. His German captain summed it up best when he walked off the pitch with an apparent injury in the 68th minute, throwing his arm band against the ground in frustration — a moment that apparently peaked De Rosario’s interest.