DC United beats Toronto fc 3-1 at BMO Field thanks to a rocky first half, but results elsewhere kept them below the playoff line and ended their 2021 season.
In a reversal from Decision Day 2020 – where results plummeted at United only to fall flat with a playoff berth on the line – Los Capitalinos minded business only to see the New York Red Bulls retain last place in the playoffs thanks to a 1-1 draw at Nashville SC.
What had been a promising 2021 season under new manager Hernan Losada is now over.
United started the day on a high, with Ola Kamara hitting the crossbar in the fourth minute of open play. Set pieces, however, would define the first half. Birnbaum opened the scoring in the 13th minute, outscoring Toronto goalie Quentin Westberg with a six-yard header from Julian Gressel’s corner.
Kamara nearly doubled the lead minutes later, only to see Jonathan Osorio clear a shot from the line – and I mean the ball was halfway down the line in the goal – and Westberg saved another. above the bar in rapid succession. Classic 2021 DC United bad luck would strike, as the Reds crossed the next corner and countered at high speed. Richie Laryea’s 24-yard blast turned what would have been a two-goal deficit into a draw.
It would last 12 minutes. Andy Najar spotted a hole in the host’s backline and placed the ball in Kamara’s running path behind. He touched the ball around Wesberg, who could only clean up the Norwegian striker. Kamara sent Wesberg the wrong way instantly, giving United the lead.
The best half-time goal came six minutes later thanks to a set piece on the training ground. Gressel played a short corner to Paul Arriola, running away from the goal line. After pulling both defenders up, Arriola’s heel put Gressel into space. He beat a man and fired a shot. But it was Ola Kamara’s heel deflection at the far post that put him in the net.
His second of the night also saw Kamara take the lead in the MLS Golden Boot race.
Elsewhere in the league, Orlando had held Montreal scoreless in Quebec, while Nashville and the Red Bulls were tied at 1 in Cité de la musique, putting the Blacks and Reds one NSC goal of a playoff berth. .
Halftime saw Andy Najar make way for Chris Odoi-Atsem as United went from their usual 353 to a 442. Meanwhile, Toronto did a triple sub, involving the former DC player. Nick DeLeon.
Half-time substitute Dom Dwyer let United stall, sending their header point blank over the bar minutes after the break. Nigel Robertha would return the favor on the hour mark, intercepting a pass from Westberg and dribbling across the box, pushing back an open Kamara, to send his shot straight into the defender, ending the danger.
Felipe saw the game’s first yellow four minutes later for a persistent offense after a few hard, late tackles.
The game immediately opened with opportunities both ways. Robertha transformed Michael Bradley – who had moved to center back during the halftime shuffle – and his curling shot forced a good save from Westberg. Toronto immediately descended onto the field with DeLeon placing his shot just over the crossbar over 20 yards.
After Adrien Perez came in to replace Paul Arriola, Kamara almost finished his hat trick, but an intervention from Kemar Lawrence and a great Westberg prevented him. Nick DeLeon had two apple bites moments later, but couldn’t beat Hamid and the DC defense.
United brought Donovan Pines and Junior Moreno for Julian Gressel and Felipe, moving into a 352 to eat crosses and obstruct the midfield for the finals. Still, a gradual pass almost immediately hit Dwyer on the 18th, but the former Orlando and Kansas City player sent his shot wide.
Following a yellow card from Dwyer for a frustrated push on Steven Birnbaum behind the game, Robertha placed an excellent transition cross on Perez’s header, but the shot went straight to Westberg. Pines got a yellow card, breaking TFC’s immediate counterattack.
Ramon Abila replaced the apparently injured Robertha in the 85th minute, helping to defend a Toronto free kick.
Kamara had another chance to score his third straight at 90 minutes, but Kemar Lawrence sold out to block United’s top scorer’s shot. Just before the final whistle, TFC’s Justin Morrow was replaced for the last time in his career, starting his retirement after a career as one of MLS’s all-time best left-backs.
Compounding the disappointment for DC and Kamara, a second-half strike from NYCFCby Taty Castellanos against the Philadelphia Union stole United’s No.9 Golden Boot, tying it on goals scored and winning the award via the assists tiebreaker.
Black and Red are now entering the three-month offseason looking to replenish a roster that has been battered in this compressed season and build on the optimism that returned to Audi Field in 2021.