Toronto FC settles for draw despite dominating D.C. United

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) gets tripped up by D.C. United defender Frederic Brillant. (Nathan Denette/CP)

D.C. United 0, Toronto FC 0
• TFC took a club record 35 shots, but couldn’t score
• Forward Jozy Altidore missed game with a heel injury

TORONTO – On a night that promised a lightning storm which didn’t end up happening, it was appropriate that lightning didn’t strike for Toronto FC on the pitch, either.

Try as they did in a dominant effort against visitors D.C. United, TFC had to settle for a 0-0 draw before an announced crowd of 26,116 at BMO Field on Wednesday night, a result that felt more like two points dropped than one point earned.

The Reds managed to take a franchise-record 35 shots in the contest, the third-most in league history, and the most in an MLS regular season game in 20 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Toronto completely outplayed D.C. in every major facet of the match – possession, total shots, shots on target, passing accuracy – but ended up dead even in the one statistical category that mattered the most: goals scored.

“The only thing that was missing tonight was a goal. The guys couldn’t have played any harder… They dominated the game, basically from the first minute to the last minute,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney offered.

“The only frustration in the [locker room] right now is that we didn’t get the goal to show for it and the three points. But everybody is proud of the effort and the work.”

Could things have turned out differently for Toronto had forward and top scorer Jozy Altidore been available? Maybe. We’ll never know for sure. But his absence on this night due to a heel injury further underscored the team’s lack of dangerous weapons up front when the American is not in the lineup. Toronto bagged 18 goals in its first six games (winning four of them), but has managed just four goals in its last five outings. Not surprising, Altidore has been limited to just 18 minutes in that stretch that has seen the Reds collect a single win.

Toronto GM Ali Curtis didn’t complete any moves before the league’s primary transfer window closed last week. One would think bringing in another forward will be his top priority when the transfer window re-opens this summer, especially if Altidore continues to float in and out of the lineup – he’s missed five of the team’s 11 games this season.

“I think we need more [offensive firepower]. I think that’s been evident for a while. That’s something we definitely have to consider, and have talked about. We have to work on that,” Vanney conceded.

Toronto (5-4-2) is now winless in three games. On the plus side, the Reds did earn their third shutout of the campaign.

“Very happy with the clean sheet, especially with our ability to protect ourselves against the transition and counter attack. To be able to dominate the game like that but still protect ourselves was an important message for us today as a team that we can do that, and be reliable in that way,” Vanney said.

With a road game on Saturday, and Altidore and defender Laurent Ciman (ankle) ruled out, Vanney juggled his lineup, giving starts to defender Drew Moor and wingback Nick De Leon. Moor sat out the previous six matches through injury, while De Leon played in place of Justin Morrow. Brazilian fullback Auro Jr. overcame back spasms suffered in a weekend home loss to Philadelphia to start for Toronto.

D.C. left its top three scorers Wayne Rooney, Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta (12 goals combined this season) on the bench ahead of a weekend road trip to Houston, and defended with as many as nine players behind the ball at times.

Except for goalkeeper Quentin Westberg being called upon to make a save in the opening 30 seconds, Toronto completely carried the play in the first half, enjoying a whopping 78.9 per cent possession, and outshooting D.C. by a 20-2 margin (7-1 on target). TFC’s 20 shots in the first half set a new franchise record.

Despite its domination, Toronto struggled to break down D.C.’s well-organized back line. Jordan Hamilton had two chances to score from in close off setups from De Leon and Alejandro Pozuelo, but the Canadian forward couldn’t convert.

“We had some reasonable to really good looks [on goal], and weren’t able to score. If you score, then the whole thing opens up and it becomes a different looking game. They were able to survive the way they were going,” Vanney explained.

Rooney, Acosta and Arriola all entered the game for D.C. early in the second half as substitutes, but it was Toronto which poured on the attacking pressure. Marky Delgado unleashed a venomous shot from 20 yards out that forced a sharp, diving save from D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Morrow, who came on for De Leon at the start of the second half, also had a good look on goal as TFC swarmed D.C.’s penalty area, only to send his attempt over the crossbar.

Several goal-mouth scrambles in the final 15 minutes looked promising for Toronto, but each time D.C. clear its lines and the danger was averted.

NOTES: Wednesday night’s kickoff was delayed by seven minutes due to lightning strikes in the area… D.C. leads the all-time series against Toronto with 14 wins and six draws in 31 matches… This was the first of two meetings this year between the sides. They’ll play again in D.C on June 29… TFC’s next outing is Saturday on the road vs. Real Salt Lake.

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