History of the unfortunate kind was made on Saturday afternoon.
Toronto FC lost a record eighth straight game to open the season as Chris Pontius and Hamdi Salihi scored in the second half to give D.C. United a 2-0 win before 18,364 at BMO Field.
Pontius’s matchwinner came in the 55th minute when he struck a left-footed rocket from outside the box into the top left corner. It was his fifth goal of the season.
It was justly deserved considering that just one minute earlier TFC defender Reggie Lambe appeared to use his hand to clear a shot off the line. No whistle was forthcoming, and the game played on.
Regardless, Salhi, who came on as a substitute in the 71st minute, put the game away in the 75th minute in the wake of a corner kick. After the initial set piece was cleared, Brandon McDonald headed the ball back into the area, and Salihi fired it home expertly.
United (5-3-3) rebounded from a midweek defeat at San Jose and made it a happy homecoming for Toronto native and former TFC player Dwayne De Rosario. They improved their all-time record against Toronto to 8-3-1.
Meanwhile, Toronto, who likewise played in midweek, drawing away to Montreal in the Amway Canadian Championship, were unable to break through for a goal. They suffered further indignity when captain Torsten Frings left the game in the 66th minute with an apparent shoulder injury. Jeremy Hall replaced the German midfielder, coming on to make his Toronto debut.
Both sides were shorthanded for the match, with Toronto missing forwards Nick Soolsma (hamstring stain) and Danny Koevermans (groin). Doneil Henry made his first MLS start in place of still recovering Adrian Cann.
United held rookie sensation Nick DeLeon out, and were again without center backs Emiliano Dudar (hamstring strain) and Dejan Jakovic (ankle sprain).
Perhaps the biggest personnel decision was United coach Ben Olsen’s goalkeeper choice. Bill Hamid returned to make his first start since before he left for international duty with the Olympic team.
Both sides went into the match aware that they needed to defend better than they have been. United was coming off a 5-3 loss at San Jose on Wednesday. Toronto’s defensive woes were obvious for most of the season with 16 goals against in their first seven games. United did a better job of it.
A cautious first half had only one real moment of note, in the 35th minute, when each goalkeeper was called upon to make saves. Bill Hamid stopped Ryan Johnson after Ashtone Morgan put the ball in front. D.C. came right back and former Toronto FC striker Maicon Santos tested Milos Kocic with a left-footed shot from outside the box.
Toronto are at home on Wednesday for the second leg of the Amway Championship against the Montreal Impact. D.C. United play at Houston next Saturday in the opening match at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)