Thu, 28 May 2020

D.C. United plays Toronto FC striving for playoff spot

Sports Xchange
16 Oct 2018, 16:38 GMT+10

After moving above the playoff line for the first time all season, D.C. United look to avoid a trap-game mentality when they host a Toronto FC team left playing only for pride on Wednesday at Audi Field.

United hopped a point above the Montreal Impact into sixth place in the Eastern Conference following Saturday's 1-0 victory over FC Dallas, a game won in the 86th minute on Russell Canouse's first career MLS goal.

D.C. (12-11-8, 44 points) still has a game in hand on Montreal, meaning Wednesday's match isn't necessarily a must-win. United will make the postseason for the fifth time under coach Ben Olsen if they win two of their last three games, regardless of what the Impact do in their last two.

But Olsen continues to be wary of a potential mental let-down from a team that has gone seven matches without a defeat to put itself in this position.

"I've been on guard for complacency, but they're a determined group," he said of his team. "I expect them to be excited for where we're at, with the understanding that we've still got a few games to make sure we're in control of our fate."

Meanwhile, Toronto (9-16-6, 33 points) is left to make its own meaning out of its final three games of its season after being eliminated from playoff contention a year after winning its first MLS Cup.

A combination of a crowded schedule due to playing in the Concacaf Champions League, injuries and perhaps a dip in mentality have hampered the Reds all season long.

Coach Greg Vanney's side is now faced with a three-game closing stretch following a loss to Vancouver on Oct. 6 that officially ended any playoff hopes.

"We play D.C., a team fighting for the playoffs: we're not going to roll over for them," Vanney said. "Then we play our rivals, Montreal. And then we play an Atlanta (United), which is always a fun game and they're playing (to tie the MLS record of) 69 points. These are meaningful games for us."

It was Toronto who set that record of 69 points a season ago. But several integral players in achieving that record won't feature at Audi Field.

Midfielders Michael Bradley (United States) and Jonathan Osorio (Canada) will play for their national teams on Tuesday and likely be unavailable Wednesday. Fellow midfielder Victor Vazquez is done for the remainder of the season after undergoing right knee surgery.

D.C. is also at less than full strength. Paul Arriola is likely to remain away from the team after the death of his father late last Wednesday. He missed Saturday's victory to be in California with his family, and Canouse -- a close friend -- dedicated the game-winning goal to him.

Forward Darren Mattocks (Jamaica) is back from international duty, but midfielders Junior Moreno (Venezuela) and Ulises Segura (Costa Rica) are still on theirs.

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