TFC, D.C. United renew hostilities after ill-tempered draw in Florida

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) celebrates a goal against D.C. United. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Bad blood bubbled over at the MLS is Back Tournament when Toronto FC and D.C. United played to an ill-tempered 2-2 draw July 13.

The match had been delayed twice — first because of Toronto’s late arrival in Florida and secondly because of positive/inconclusive COVID-19 tests involving both teams. When the game finally kicked off, it featured a comeback by 10-man D.C. United with goals in the 84th and 91st minute, several ugly tackles and some jostling at the final whistle.

At the time, Toronto captain Michael Bradley said some of the ill-will seemed to come from D.C. players blaming TFC for the match postponements.

The teams renew hostilities Saturday at Audi Field as Toronto kicks off what looks to be an extensive stint south of the border due to pandemic-related border restrictions.

Toronto (6-2-3) arrives 11 points ahead of injury-depleted D.C. United (2-5-4), which has won just one of its eight matches (1-4-3) since tying TFC in Florida.

Asked if he expects more bile in Saturday’s game, D.C. United coach Bill Olsen replied: “I’m not sure.”

“You never really know about that stuff until the games happen,” he added. “I think it was a different time and different circumstances. Frankly some surreal circumstances. It was early days in the (MLS tournament) bubble.

“We’ve got enough on our plate right now to deal too much with the emotional levels of the past. We’re trying to get this team better. And we’ve got a lot of respect for (the) ability of the team coming to town. They’re as good as anybody, not only the last four, five years, but they’re showing once again that they’re playing at a high level. They’re healthy and they have a real clear way of playing that is tough to deal with. So we’ll have our hands full.”

Offence has been an issue for D.C., which is tied for 23rd in the league averaging 0.82 goals a game. Toronto is tied for seventh at 1.64 goals a game.

Olsen said while the situation is not dire, “we also have to have some urgency because there’s only so many games left to start getting points.”

Toronto coach Greg Vanney says he expects “a little bit of emotion” Saturday, although he believes the heat dissipated with the two teams eventually talking it out in the tournament bubble.

“A lot of guys spoke to each other after the game and a lot of that stuff, I think, was put to rest,” he said. “It was a little bit of a misunderstanding and seeing a situation in different ways.”

“Everybody moves on,” he added.

That is certainly the case for Toronto and the other two Canadian teams, who face weeks away from home due to pandemic-related border restrictions that make it difficult for U.S. clubs to come north.

After Saturday, Toronto will head to its home away from home in East Hartford, Conn., to prepare for a meeting with New York City FC next Wednesday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. Then it’s back to Hartford in advance of a “home” game Sept. 27 against Columbus Crew SC at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, a 38,000-seat venue that is home to the University of Connecticut football team.

MLS has yet to announce the rest of the regular-season schedule, but Toronto expects to continue using Hartford as a hub.

TORONTO FC (6-2-3) at D.C. UNITED (2-5-4)

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET at Audi Field

FORM GUIDE: D.C. United is 1-3-2 and has been outscored 8-3 since the end of the MLS is Back Tournament. Toronto is 4-2-0, all against Canadian opposition, since the Florida tournament.

INJURY REPORT: Toronto is without midfielder/captain Michael Bradley and forwards Ifunanyachi Achara (knee) and Patrick Mullins (hamstring). The D.C. injury list includes Paul Arriola (knee), Edison Flores (facial fractures, concussion), Russell Canouse (hamstring) and Felipe (knee) while defender Steven Birnbaum (bone bruise) is listed as day-to-day.

GOALKEEPER QUESTION: D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said veteran Bill Hamid, who missed some time dealing with a personal issue, had “another good week of training.” Chris Seitz has started the last four games, posting two shutouts.

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