United-Toronto FC Preview
By MATT BECKER
STATS Senior Writer
(AP) -- After going three months without earning a point away from the nation's capital, D.C. United have picked up four in their last two road matches.
They appear to have a good shot of continuing that trend and bolstering their playoff position with a matchup against the worst club in MLS.
United try for their fourth win in five matches Saturday when they visit a Toronto FC team in the midst of an 11-game winless drought.
D.C (15-10-6) found itself in a precarious position a month ago when reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario suffered a season-ending knee injury, but it has since secured 10 of a possible 12 points. Although United's three-game winning streak ended last Saturday in Portland, they still came away with a crucial point in a 1-all draw.
D.C. dropped from third to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but still owns a three-point lead over sixth-place Columbus with three matches to play.
"We control our own destiny. That's what your want," said Chris Pontius, who scored his team-high 12th goal on a penalty kick last Saturday.
United went into that match tied with New York, but the Red Bulls easily beat hapless Toronto 4-1 to pull into a second-place tie with Chicago.
D.C. now hopes it can take advantage of facing TFC (5-19-7), which is 0-8-3 since beating Colorado on July 18.
United have won the season's first two meetings, 3-1 at home May 19 behind Rosario's pair of goals and 2-0 at BMO Field two weeks earlier - a rare road win.
D.C. is 4-9-2 on the road - a stark difference from its 11-1-4 record at RFK Stadium - but is showing signs of turning things around. It escaped Portland with a point following a 1-0 win in Philadelphia on Sept. 20 which snapped a six-game road losing streak.
"To come away with something is a positive especially with our road form this year," coach Ben Olsen said. "It hasn't been stellar, but as of late we got a win and a tie on the road, so it's something to build on."
Toronto has had nothing to build on lately.
The club has surrendered four goals in two straight league matches and has not scored more than one in seven of its last eight. Ryan Johnson scored in the sixth minute against New York, but the club was badly outplayed the rest of the way.
Coach Paul Mariner thought some of Toronto's struggles could have been attributed to a grueling schedule, traveling across the continent to Los Angeles, then to El Salvador for a CONCACAF Champions League contest and finally to New York - all in an eight-day span. He did admit, however, that his team simply wasn't as talented as the Red Bulls.
"It was a difficult travel week," Mariner said. "We just can't catch a break and it could be that they have quality players. It's probably more of the latter."
TFC has its next two at BMO Field, but that hasn't offered much of an advantage. The team is 0-3-2 in five MLS matches there since beating the Rapids 2 1/2 months ago.
Updated October 5, 2012