A tweak in formation has D.C. United on the upswing, and they look for a third straight win Wednesday night when they take on Toronto FC north of the border.
Coach Ben Olsen has gone with a 4-2-3-1 formation in recent matches, giving Paul Arriola a settled spot on the right underneath striker Wayne Rooney and alongside playmaker Luciano Acosta. The switch has paid dividends for both Arriola and United (7-2-3), who have won back-to-back matches after defeating Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Sunday night.
D.C. kept pace with Philadelphia on 23 points over the weekend for the Eastern Conference lead, though they trail on goal difference. Arriola’s classy, curling finish from 18 yards inside the right post on 78 minutes provided the difference and gave him back-to-back games with a goal.
“I think it allows me to be in a more attacking starting position, constantly around Lucho, be around Wayne,” Arriola said about his spot on the left wing in D.C.’s set-up. “Being able to give the team some width and depth in runs when it comes to runs behind and stretching the defense. To bring a dynamic that we need at times.”
Arriola is tied with Acosta for second on the team with three goals. Rooney, who set up Arriola’s goal, leads D.C with six and has factored in 10 of the Black-and-Red’s 17 goals. In defense, Bill Hamid made four saves for his sixth shutout, matching NYCFC’s Sean Johnson for the MLS lead.
Toronto FC (5-1-4) can argue it was snakebit in a 2-1 home loss to Philadelphia on Saturday. Defender Chris Mavinga conceded an own goal in the first half, knocking a cross past keeper Quentin Westberg, and the Reds conceded the go-ahead goal in the 68th minute playing with 10 men as Auro was being treated on the sideline with an injury that forced him off immediately after the goal.
While TFC coach Greg Vanney lamented the breakdowns, he also felt the team’s lack of a cutting edge on the offensive end contributed to the loss. Alejandro Pozuelo accounted for the offense with a deft chip from 20 yards in the 51st minute on a free kick.
“The very start of the game we were in control and passing the ball around, but there was no venom in our attack, it was just a lot of passing around. And while that’s nice, it doesn’t win games,” Vanney told the club’s official website. “You’ve got to have some urgency – to want to attack, to want to force the other team to make plays in front of their goal, to create chances – and we didn’t.”
Striker Jozy Altidore had a late runout as a substitute after missing the previous three matches with a hamstring injury. The United States international is tied with Pozuelo for the team lead with five goals.
D.C. took four points from the two matches last year, with Rooney’s goal on 18 minutes separating the sides in a 1-0 victory Oct. 17. The clubs played to a 4-4 draw last year in Toronto, with Nick Hagglund nicking a point for TFC with a 92nd-minute equalizer.