United conclude their four-match road streak on Saturday, July 23 when they travel to Canada to take on Toronto FC at 7:30 PM ET on NewsChannel 8. "Our focus right now is Toronto and trying to get three points out of this game," head coach Ben Olsen said. "We have to start moving up and getting some wins." The two teams have met 24 times in the regular season since Toronto's entrance to the league in 2007 and the Black-and-Red lead the series with a record of 12-8-4 and an even more impressive 7-4-1 away from RFK Stadium. Saturday's match is absolutely critical for both teams; United are looking to end the road trip on a high ahead of an August homestand and Toronto look to gain ground in a very tight Eastern Conference where the fourth and eighth-place teams are separated by only four points.
D.C. have earned seven points on the road this season, including two from a possible nine on this road stretch, and will look to end the away-game streak on a high note. The last time United have traveled to BMO on June 27, 2015, both teams left with a point following a 0-0 draw. And while Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco hasn't scored in eight straight matches, the Atomic Ant has still scored eight times and is always a dangerous threat. "Even if you do a good job and he doesn’t get on the ball as much as Toronto wants, he still has these moments of brilliance that can change games," Olsen said. "He’s done it to us before so we have to continue to make sure we’re around him and make sure he has as little impact as possible." With the first-choice pairing of Steve Birnbaum and Bobby Boswell back alongside Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin, look for the experienced back line to handle Giovinco and his attacking teammates.
Speaking of Giovinco's teammates, the Reds have been dealing with numerous injuries throughout the first half of the year. U.S. National Team midfielder Michael Bradley is suffering from a knee sprain, while his fellow midfielder Will Johnson is still out with a tibial plateau fracture. Another U.S. forward, Jozy Altidore, is on his way back from a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable, while goalkeeper Clint Irwin is dealing with a quad injury.
With so many big names forced off the field, Toronto have had to rely on first round draft pick Tsubasa Endoh and young forward Jordan Hamilton as well as midfielder Jonathan Osorio to step up. Endoh, a former University of Maryland player, has started 12 matches so far and scored one goal while Hamilton and Osorio are second on the team in goals and assists, respectively. They also bolstered their attack with Canadian forward Tosaint Ricketts, signed from Boluspor in Turkey. The 28-year-old has earned 50 caps for the Canadian National Team and will likely slot in alongside Giovinco up top.
In a match that is rapidly becoming Terps Part 2, United's newest signing, Patrick Mullins, joins fellow Terrapin Kemp along with the rest of the Black-and-Red after his acquisition from New York City FC on Wednesday. The 24-year-old forward will compete for the number nine role with Álvaro Saborío and Alhaji Kamara immediately and change United's attack.
In such a critical matchup between two competitive teams, look for a hard-fought match Saturday night. Pregame coverage starts at 7 PM on NewsChannel 8.