They were up, then they were down, then they found a late leveler, but it was Theodore Ku-DiPietro’s 98th-minute winner that will define D.C. United’s 2023 season opener against Toronto FC.

Check out Sarah’s full recap and then dive into our thoughts on the 3-2 dub below. Be sure to jump in the comments, too, to let us know what caught your eye.

1. The kids are better than alright

The second half was not going well.

After a very solid first half gave the Black-and-Red a deserved lead through Mateusz Klich, TFC manager Bob Bradley’s halftime adjustments were the story of the second stanza, as the Reds had controlled the ball and the tempo, scoring two goals to take a lead of their own.

In the 86th minute, Wayne Rooney called on 18-year-old Jackson Hopkins and 17-year-old Kristian Fletcher. The two homegrown attackers joined 21-year-old Teddy KDP, who had come on 20 minutes earlier. It proved the pivotal decision of the night.

Hopkins provided width and industry on the right, but it was Fletcher and Ku—along with newly imported left back Mohanad Jeahze—who would steal the show. After combining to set up Christian Benteke’s 90th-minute equalizer, the stage was set:

This, of course, followed 16-year-old Matai Akinmboni’s start at center back. Though he gave up a (somewhat soft) penalty, the Annapolis native completed more than 91% of his often aggressive passes and was among the best players on the field in the first half before coming off in the second half.

The story around United this winter has been one of age and experience with the arrival of over-30 reinforcements like Klich and Pedro Santos. And they certainly delivered!

But for a night, Audi Field belonged to the kids. And if Rooney is to be believed, this likely won’t be the last time we’ll say that.

-Adam Taylor

2. But let’s not pretend everything was good

Full marks to Jeahze for that pass in the 98th minute (his second assist on the night); we’ve heard very little about this signing but there has been quiet speculation that it could be one of the more impactful ones D.C. could make; this recent Opta piece equating him to Kai Wagner should make fans drool, as even if he misses, he could be the best left back the organization has seen in a decade.

But it wasn’t completely milk and honey for him, as he watched a ball go over his head and Richie Laryea chase it down to draw the penalty to level things initially, and he allowed Federico Bernardeschi to get by him and almost allow TFC to reclaim the lead late in the second half. Victor Palsson was presumably thrust into center back next to Akinmboni due to Steven Birnbaum’s illness and did himself few favors as well on the second goal, Mateusz Klich’s long-range, early first half shot was an introduction to what was otherwise a solid but anonymous night.

On the flip side, it should be noted that Klich’s central midfield partner Russell Canouse channeled some of the destroyer role that has led the team to wins in the past, and that performance hopefully keeps him in the lineup as health returns to the group.

I like the kids and I like Ku, and I’ve seen him grow into a guy who should be part of the rotation. And yet Ted’s 76th minute half volley shot thing near goal was the first shot the team took in the second half on a TFC backline that was also playing their first game that counted in the standings. I like the olds, I am an old, but the olds had a performance that is going to need to improve over the course of this very long season.

-Ryan Keefer

To build on this point, United effectively tripled their expected goals number based on the shots they took Saturday night, and before the game-tying-and-winning flurry at the end, had created all of 0.5 xG. The defense had some rough moments, but the attack simply asked too little of Sean Johnson and Toronto’s back line.

Getting the rust knocked off both physically and mentally will help, as will growing connections and understanding among the squad.


3. Audi Field shines on Apple TV

Buzzard Point was rocking last night. The Chico Stand was full and loud, and the noise, by all accounts, was palpable all over the building.

The supporters’ groups organized a march to the stadium, and, friends, it delivered.

Once the game started, the noise and passion came through loud and clear on the feeds carried on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass. Which speaks to the supporters and the new streaming setup.

We all know the Chico Stand is the beating heart of Audi Field, and the support and atmosphere in the building will live and die with the north end. After the draining season we all lived through in 2022, to see and hear the stand at capacity and full volume out of the gate in 2023 is something special.

As for the streaming telecast, it was frankly a strong debut from Apple and MLS. As has been noted elsewhere, the sound mix set the crowd volume at a level high enough that the stadium atmosphere—the differentiator MLS has going for it—conveyed to the home viewer in a way it never consistently did in previous years. Extra microphones and smart placement ensured one person’s voice didn’t dominate the soundscape, while the increased number of cameras and strong directing choices from the production truck made the night feel like an Event.

There are still some kinks to iron out on the production side, but the starting point is a lot higher than I think any of us could have expected.

And as long as the supporters and everyone else around the stadium keep bringing it, viewers will feel it at home.


Let us know in the comments what you’re taking away from the season opener—besides the three points.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Good stuff here. I think you’re overly critical of Klich. I saw him all over the field. We’re used to traditional Argentine (forgive me El Diablo) A-mids who are a force offensively but generally are not great ball winners or tracking back to help out the D-mids. Not so with Klich. He was all over the field doing something of everything. And I think that’s part of the “leadership” Rooney was talking about–about setting an example that says “all of us, you do everything, you aren’t exempt from tackling or winning the ball, or letting someone drop a ball to you to relieve their pressure.

And yes, “the kids” were more than alright. And I too don’t think that Matai got the credit he deserved for his work with the ball.

Finally, did everyone see how teammates manhandled Teddy KDP after his goal? Man, we’re lucky the guy didn’t get injured.


Yeah, what is that hair pulling, choking thing Palsson was doing to Ku? He looked pretty annoyed, rightfully so. Hey buddy, instead of pulling my hand away when I shush the camera be a better defender. I did my job you do yours.
I also wanted to say how much I appreciated Santos’ willingness to mix it up right along with Klich. Setting a good example for the others, sometimes you have to be a little extra if you want to win.


Thanks for moving your DCU coverage here–looks great! Also, I agree w/ JoeW. Klich looked very good throughout the match. I was not looking forward to this game–I just didn’t get what Rooney was trying to achieve with this overhaul–but I’m glad to stand corrected. DCU outplayed TFC for much of the game, and never conceded in the run of play. There’s some tightening up that needs to be done in the back, and I’d like to see Bentecke sharpen up a bit too, but I’m pleased with this start against what seemed like a decently strong team.

Matt Glad

I was impressed with Apple and MLS’ first broadcast. The highlights seem to be taking a while to come out and aren’t on YouTube right now.

The assessments were all sound. The defense, quite frankly, looked disorganized and frantic at times. Jeahze got done up pretty badly on several occasions as did Palsson and even Birnbaum. Like y’all said above, this is the first game and there’s plenty to learn from.

MLS’s new playoffs more or less makes the regular season mean less. These first 4-6 games are essentially extended preseason. Points only help our chances right now and I’ll save any large assertions about the squad for after these first few games.


The interface has a lot of learning curve.

It was very hard to find the whole game on replay. The scores were also set to spoiler mode by default. I had to consult world soccer talk to figure out how to view the whole game rather than a 7 minute highlight.


While I love the three points and I’m thrilled about Klich and KDP, I do think one of the takeaways should have been that the defense was really disorganized. In the second half, any time the ball was coming towards Najar OR Jeahze, Toronto was able to create a chance. I’m not as worried about Jeahze – he was starting next to a CB pair that wasn’t ever going to dictate the organization; I am very worried about Najar – he clearly doesn’t have the legs he used to have. He was beaten on every last dribble of the second half, sometimes in ways that seemed like he just “gave up”. Eager to see if Ryan can push him for the starting spot because he can definitely run.


Wasn’t the best showing from anyone on the backline, with varying degrees of mitigating factors for each player. With Jeahze and Najar, their body positioning needs a bit of work. Especially with Najar, he can compensate for some loss in speed by setting himself up to better to close down the angle an opponent takes to the goal. Jeahze will be just fine, and already looks like a menace going forward. Akinmboni looked like a very young player still learning the game, but while I was critical of his play on the PK (not entirely his fault too), he’s so good on the ball and will clean it up defensively in no time.


It was an ok start. Still a lot of work to do. Klich has quality and I hope the rest of the team gels with him. Glad to see Robertha get a run.

Benteke showed a lot of quality. I never understood why some of the commentariat dogs him but he was great inside the box and with checking back to provide a target to lay passes off. I’d play with a forward like that any day. His game is to check back, lay it off, then make a smart back lost run. It worked on the second goal. He also bosses that center back on that goal. Took two steps forward, and one back to crest just enough space at just the right time to get a clean header on goal. He is a hard guy to defend inside the box. Give him a little service and he will finish many goals. Other teams will be forced to double team him. Or sic one Quincy Amerikwa on him to live in his head rent free. Either way.

I usually don’t watch with the sound up but I did for the first half on this one. The announcers did note all the personnel changes on both teams and how a lot of the new signings bring more quality, at least on paper. I’m still baffled how the super geniuses at didn’t notice that for DC United but they get paid to write that trash and I have to work for a living so the joke is on me, I guess.

I really like Coach Rooney’s work. I like how he had plans for second half subs. I like how he generally put guys in positions to succeed. I like how he recognized that the kids will go out and run at a tired Toronto team.

The defense part of the spine is a work in progress. I felt that Canouse was too high and should have been offset a little back rather than next to Klich. I have no criticism of Durkin. He is a spine player who played a good shift on the flank. You can tell he doesn’t have the flank burner mentality to run first then as questions later but he did a good job with positioning, engine, and ball control.

The team needs how to manage when the other team throws an extra mid higher to press higher. Coach Bradley made an intelligent adjustment and it almost paid off.

Thank you for starting this new page! I like this online community as we can actually talk tactics and nuance rather than the usual “everyone sucks” after a loss and “everyone is great after a win.”


At the risk of piling on, I think Klich provided exactly what Rooney was asking for and a gorgeous home opening goal on top of that. We’re definitely playing a fluid 4-4-2 between a diamond and a flat midfield, and Klich is the floating piece in and out of possession- the whole formation is built on him, and I don’t think it’s bad. If anything, the wing pieces weren’t quite right, especially Durkin, who is only able to provide service when he’s able to line it up for a few seconds, which amazingly Toronto allowed in the first half. As for Santos, he’s a good possession player who can combine well and has good foot skill, but absolutely no pace- I’m thinking his preseason chemistry with Taxi might have been a major reason for him starting, and we obviously didn’t have Taxi.

Overall, I’m bullish at this point about our attacking pieces, like Robertha, KDP, Fletcher, and Hopkins, and I think they’ll support our DP’s well, the main question is, where does Rooney go from here with the lineup? The formation makes a certain amount of tactical sense, even if the sweeper-keeper element should make everyone noivous in a tough game.

I was certainly glad to hear Dave’s voice on the broadcast, but geez, get the team a decent booth and let them know what the stoppage time is.


Agree that Klich had an impactful game. The backline was shaky at times as noted. I think Jeahze is fine, let him adjust to the league. The guy is quality, look at that pass to Ku for the winner. I also thought Palsson was OK in emergency duty. Blaming him for the second goal is just not right. Rewatch that play, Miller makes a fantastic save but 3 Toronto players are crashing the box with only Palsson back there to defend. The rest of DCU – especially Najar — were just ball watching. Also agree about Najar — he’s a rotation player now. Never was great defensively, but I think he’s regressing.

Bryan McEachern

I am trying to learn this site. Is there a permanent log-in method or just as one goes along? I checked the box to save stuff

Bryan McEachern

I am getting better at this…Doc96


Me too. Login was a bit of a challenge.


Me too but it seems last comment did not post.

Adam Taylor

I’ve been able to stay logged in on computer and phone, but I’m dealing with some other WordPress weirdsies (can’t change my profile picture, for one). I think the account/commenting system here is just a little slower than we’ve been used to elsewhere—thanks for your patience as we get The DP off the ground!


Yes. My comment did show up after a pause. Thanks. Will tackle the picture next!


Okay, now that I’ve had a few days to digest the 3 points and reflect, I have more organized thoughts on what I take away from this win.

1. Klich: yes–everything I said earlier. Not our usual A-mid but he fits what I think Rooney is looking for and is a legit DP (not a TAM at a DP salary). You can see why the Leeds fans bleed for this guy.

2. Rooney has a sub pattern. And it involves putting young guys out on the pitch in key situations using their quickness and technical skills against tired legs IN KEY MOMENTS OF THE GAME and saying “okay, go win me this match.” Good way to get young players to game confident and use them effectively. But he didn’t start them all–he goes with Matai to start (and then brings in the limited Birnbaum to help close out the match when we pushing forward and can’t afford mistakes at the back).

3. We’ll see if Miller is a good sweeper keeper. I think we’re all “yikes” less because of Miller and more because this is not how we are used to our GK’s playing.

4. We’ve talked about how Rooney is only adding players to “win now” and thus getting aging guys. I’m not sure that’s accurate. Getting a 30+ Klich is cheaper and more affordable than a 25 Y.O. version of him. He’s operating with a bigger budget than at Derby but still under a budget and trying to add talent but do it frugally. In the meantime, we may have games where we have 6 homegrown players on the field for us this year.

5. Yeah, our defense looked ragged in the second half. But we’re treating TFC as if they’re a bunch of fools. Nah–they’ve got 2 of the biggest budget, highest pedigree attackers in the league with a bunch of other good offensive talent. They’re going to embarrass a bunch of other defenses too. And we ask our outside backs to push up. So I’m reserving judgment on our defensive status to this point.

6. With Taxi out an extended time, I wonder how this affects our formation. Teddy KDP (with his ability to make late runs forward in to space–ala Taxi or a young Michael Bradley) is a good fit to start if he continues this kind of play. As the team settles, I wonder if Santos continues to start and if instead we see him as a Swiss Army knife (can play left or right outside back, be a winger, an outside mid, an A-mid). I think Rooney prefers to put young legs with speed on as a reserve. But I do like the idea of Santos as a 12th or 13th man, with his technical ability, knowledge of the league and veteran’s savvy.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x