United-Toronto FC Preview
Revamped Toronto FC lived up to the hype in its season debut last weekend.
Now, it's looking for another impressive performance in its home opener.
Jermain Defoe will try to find the net again in order to spur Toronto to the first 2-0 start in franchise history Saturday against D.C. United.
Toronto has failed to reach the playoffs in all seven of its seasons, so the extravagant signings of Defoe and Michael Bradley combined with the loan of goalkeeper Julio Cesar seemed to put the club on track to end that dubious run in 2014.
It looked like a potential contender in its season opener last Saturday, beating Seattle 2-1 on the road behind a pair of goals from Defoe.
"You can sort of now, like, not relax a bit but go into the next game confident," the England national team forward told the team's official website. "I'm sure, or I hope, that if the chance comes, I'll be able to get another goal.
"The first game is always important in the season. I think it lifts the change room and the fans here. I can imagine on Saturday, it's going to be electric."
That certainly wasn't the case at BMO Field last season, as Toronto went a woeful 2-12-3 and scored seven goals - none while dropping the final four.
Having Defoe, Bradley and Julio Cesar could prevent that from happening again.
"What Michael brings is an absolute energy," coach Ryan Nelsen said of the United States midfielder. "His character, his confidence, is infectious on people."
Bradley should be anchoring the center of the midfield again, while Julio Cesar - Brazil's likely starting goalkeeper in this summer's World Cup - figures to get the call after making a pair of saves last weekend.
Toronto is 2-0-1 in its last three meetings with D.C., winning 4-1 at home Sept. 28.
Like Toronto, United is hoping a slew of moves will produce improvement after they finished with the worst record in the league last season at 3-24-7.
Things didn't seem to change just yet, as D.C. lost its season opener 3-0 at home to Columbus on March 8, mustering one shot on goal.
"The issues we had are fixable," coach Ben Olsen told the team's official website. "Some of it is chemistry that I have said all along is going to take time, and some of it is tactical, that we need to get right in the short term. In the end, I am still very excited about this team."
Production from Eddie Johnson could be United's main concern after he managed just two shots - none on target - against the Crew. The forward's 11 goals in 24 games for the Sounders last season were half of D.C.'s total.
Johnson, who inked a designated player contract earlier this month, has two goals and one assist in three meetings with Toronto.
Getting Johnson service, though, is key, and that will likely fall on fellow forward Fabian Espindola and midfielder Luis Silva, who should be back in the lineup.