Toronto FC-United Preview

The Associated Press

Toronto FC was left fuming after blowing a lead in a controversial loss to the Eastern Conference's best team.

The club doesn't have much time to regroup as it faces the other East team it's trying to catch.

D.C. United has won three straight and is well rested as it looks to stretch Toronto's road winless streak to six games Wednesday night.

Toronto (7-6-5) took the lead into halftime of Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Sporting Kansas City. Star midfielder Michael Bradley blasted the officials afterward, saying that Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin should have been sent off for taking down Brazilian striker Gilberto, who had a clear path on goal.

"It's by no means an excuse, it was the same for both teams, but the referee was absolutely awful," Bradley said. "The people at the MLS office in New York, when they talk about wanting to improve the league, the first thing that needs to be improved is the refereeing, bottom line."

There's little time to dwell on that result with two road games in the next four days. Toronto has one defeat and four straight draws on the road since winning in Columbus on April 5.

D.C. (10-5-4) leads third-place Toronto by eight points although it has played one more game. United has not played an MLS match since a 3-1 home win over Chivas USA on July 20.

Eddie Johnson converted a penalty kick for the second straight game. He has scored just one of his three goals from open play but coach Ben Olsen says he is seeing improvement from the normally high-scoring forward.

"It's important for the fans to get behind him because in a lot of ways he's as good as it gets in this league," Olsen said. "He has an ability to score, hold the ball up, he's technically sound, has good pace. He's as well-rounded a forward as you can get in this league and now it's nice to see him touch the net a little bit."

D.C. remains without Fabian Espindola, who has team highs of seven goals and eight assists and is out with a knee injury.

The club has been solid defensively, with goalkeeper Bill Hamid fourth in the league with a 1.13 goals-against average.

"The chemistry, the bond, the fight, the hunger, the mentality, it seems like a lot is going well," Hamid said. "But, you know, knock on wood, we want to just keep on going and not let this get to our head and not be satisfied, to continue being hungry and continue getting points."

This win streak for D.C. began with a 2-1 victory at Toronto on July 5. All the goals came in the second half, with Perry Kitchen scoring the winner.

That result avenged a 1-0 defeat March 22 in which Jermain Defoe scored in his TFC home debut.

Defoe is fourth in the league with 11 goals. He'll return after he was suspended for the Kansas City contest although Bradley says there is plenty of improvement needed elsewhere.

"We've got to take a long hard look at ourselves at the moment and really find a way to translate at times good play and dominating games and turn that into points and wins," Bradley said.