Breaking Down D.C. United's Scoreless Draw Against Toronto FC

D.C. United probably weren't awarded any style points by the judges last night against Toronto FC, but nonetheless, the Black-and-Red left BMO Field with a point in a 0-0 draw. United, with a heavily rotated squad, surrendered 35 shots throughout the game, the third most in a single game in MLS history. But few of those shots resulted in good scoring opportunities for the Reds, which allowed D.C. to keep their seventh clean sheet of the season.

With just two full days of rest after the 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City, Ben Olsen made seven changes to his starting lineup. Without Wayne Rooney, Luciano Acosta, Paul Arriola, and Lucas Rodriguez from the start, United was set up to play a cagey game, trying to hold the fort down defensively before potentially springing for a goal at the other end.

Rooney, Acosta, and Arriola came in early in the second half, helping to relieve some of the pressure on the defense. But United would end the night with only three shots, one of which came in the second half. The team now faces another quick turnaround, but before Saturday's game at Houston, let's discuss a couple of things from last night's draw.

Heavy Rotation

Olsen never tips his hand early as to what his lineups might be from game to game. But most people thought, or assumed, that last night he would roll with a similar lineup as the one against SKC, mostly because it was a game against an Eastern Conference foe, and in the balance of the season a win or draw against a team from the East for United is more important than one against a team from the West.

But that wasn't the case with the lineup on Wednesday, with just Bill Hamid, Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, and Russell Canouse being the holdovers from the win against Sporting. 

That meant a debut for Akeem Ward, a first start of the year for Quincy Amarikwa, and second starts for Zoltan Stieber, Chris McCann, Jalen Robinson, and Ulises Segura. Only Chris Durkin, who filled in for the absent Junior Moreno, had more than one start this year entering the game last night.

It's a group of players that hasn't had time together on the field, and yet they were able to hold on for 90 minutes to get a vital point on the road. Other than Stieber's shot in the first minute and Amarikwa's goal called back for offside right after, the Black-and-Red didn't threaten the goal much. But they let Olsen rest some of his starters, and starved TFC of vital points at home.

Job done.

Another Game, Another Formation

For the third consecutive game now, Olsen has used a different formation for his starting lineup. First, it was the 3-4-2-1 in the 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew. Then on Sunday, United finally got back to their more familiar 4-2-3-1, with Marquinhos Pedroso making his team debut at left back. Versus Toronto, Olsen used another three center back setup, but this time, the formation was more of a 5-3-2.

Ward and Segura flanked Birnbaum, Brillant, and Robinson, but spent more time as part of the back line, making United's defensive form a five-man line of defense. Then in midfield, it was another flat line with McCann, Durkin, and Canouse, leaving Amarikwa and Stieber up top as the lone attackers from the start.

Formations aren't quite as important as the roles that players are asked to fill on the field, but this was another sign of Olsen making adjustments to best suit the set of players he started. In the past, the head coach was more likely to stick with the same formation from game to game, shoehorning players into roles as need be. 

But last year, with the midseason switch to the 4-2-3-1, and this year, with the various formations he's used, has shown that Olsen is more willing to make adjustments on the fly. The team's preferred look is still the 4-2-3-1, but Wednesday night showed that United was capable of deploying yet another setup, which might prove useful in the future.

35 Shots Is A Lot, But...

United was under a constant barrage of shots on Wednesday night, giving up the third most ever by a team in a MLS game. Twenty attempts in the first half and 15 in the second, meant that the Reds were constantly getting the ball near United's box, at least in range of the goal. The only two players out of the 14 that Toronto used that didn't have a shot at some point in the game were center back Drew Moor and goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.

But for all those shots, there were few great scoring chances for the hosts. Here's an illustration of Toronto's expected goals for the evening: 

The Reds ended the game with an xG total of 2.51, according to Opta. That's a good number, and in most games that would usually result in at least one goal. However, in most games, a team doesn't typically take 35 shots. Which means that TFC's expected goals number is a bit bloated, just based on the amount of shots they took. Of course, there were a couple of good chances, mostly from Jordan Hamilton, but those opportunities were few and far between.

Now, United won't want to make a habit of allowing opponents that many looks at goal. But lineups and performances like the one Wednesday night won't be commonplace, meaning this should be a one-off instance for the Black-and-Red. 

Matthijs De Ligt Could Be More Crucial For Juventus Than Cristiano Ronaldo

A year after Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo ended Juventus’ Champions League run, 19-year-old Matthijs de Ligt did the same thing, his powerful header sending Ajax through at the expense of the Bianconeri.

D.C. United Overcome Second Half Penalty, Beat FC Cincinnati 4-1

D.C. United were quite unhappy about a second-half penalty awarded to hosts FC Cincinnati on Thursday night in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs. Emmanuel Ledesma converted the spot-kick in the 54th minute, canceling out Lucas Rodriguez's first-half goal. However, instead of being put off by the call, United responded in aggressive fashion, scoring three second-half goals to win 4-1 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. 

USMNT No. 1 Zack Steffen Heads To Fortuna Dusseldorf On Loan

Throughout the decades of ups and downs in U.S. Soccer, there has always been one thing that fans of the men’s national team have been able to count on: a good goalie between the sticks. Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, and Tony Meola each earned at least 100 caps since 1988, and a host of dependable reserve keepers since that year has kept the position completely solid. 

18 Players The USMNT Should & Shouldn't Play In The Concacaf Nations League

When my wife and I got to our car in the parking garage this morning, I realized with great sadness I had left my cell phone — which I use to stream audiobooks on my morning commute — up in the condo, and since we were already a couple minutes late I decided not to waste several minutes retrieving it. 

Bournemouth & Girona Are Paragons Of Small-Market Success In England, Spain

You’ve probably heard the tale at least once by now. 

D.C. United Face FC Cincinnati For The First Time In Need Of A Win

A week after facing off against an MLS original, D.C. United head to Ohio to take on the league's newest team, FC Cincinnati, in the first meeting between the two clubs. Last Friday, the Black-and-Red had to fight back for a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, giving them just one win in their past nine league games. Meanwhile, Cincinnati, still mired in last place in MLS in 2019, have reeled off two wins in a row.

Fiorentina's Federico Chiesa: The Most Talented & Divisive Starlet In Italy

Growing up, there was this kid named Albus Dinglefeet — I’ve fictionalized his name for anonymity’s sake — in my brother’s grade, and Albus was one of the fastest kids around. 

Everton, Sevilla & Nantes Feature On Top 5 European Friendlies On FloFC

With the Women’s World Cup, Copa America, and Concacaf Gold Cup officially in the books, your significant other is breathing a sigh of relief because a break in summer soccer has finally arrived, right? 

Orlando's US Open Cup Quarterfinal Win Hints At Future Potential

In the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals against NYCFC last week, Orlando City SC nearly blew it. They held a 1-0 lead at home, with a chance to squeak into the semifinals of a tournament that could be a boon for the playoff-less Lions. Simply playing important knockout games is enticing for a restless fanbase just waiting to get excited about something.

How FC Cincinnati Beat The Chicago Fire En Route To A 2-Game Winning Streak

Fresh off their first three points in nearly two months, FC Cincinnati burst out of the gates and held on for their second win on the trot against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.