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The Globe and Mail

Toronto FC slips down MLS East standings with 2-1 loss to D.C. United

D.C. United midfielder Rob Vincent (26) battles for a ball with Toronto FC midfielder Amando Cooper (31) during the first half in a game at BMO Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016.

Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports

Lamar Neagle scored twice to lift D.C. United to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday night as Toronto lost ground on the two New York teams in the Eastern Conference standings.

Toronto pressed hard as the game wore on but was unable to break down the D.C. defence.

The New York Red Bulls (14-9-9, 51 points) defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-2 earlier Saturday to regain top spot in the Eastern Conference on goal difference. New York City FC (14-9-9, 51 points) had blanked Houston 2-0 Friday night to knock Toronto into second place.

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Jozy Altidore opened the scoring for Toronto (13-9-10, 49 points), which slipped to third place before a crowd of 22,212 at BMO Field.

The loss was just the second in 14 games for Toronto (7-2-5) – a run that started with a 4-1 victory over D.C. United at BMO Field on July 23. Toronto came into Saturday's game unbeaten in four games (1-0-3).

And it was the first time Toronto has lost this season after scoring first. It had been 13-0-1 with the first goal.

D.C. United (10-9-13), which extended its unbeaten streak to five (4-0-1), has lost just once in its last 12 games (5-1-6) since that defeat in Toronto. Still Saturday's win marked only the second road victory of the season for Ben Olsen's team which is 2-5-9 away from home. The first away win came May 27 in Kansas City.

D.C. United came into the game holding the sixth and last playoff spot in the East and looking to solidify its playoff position.

The south stand of BMO Field was back to its raucous self with the decision of supporters groups, led by the Inebriatti members, to end their silent treatment. Inebriatti has been at odds with the club over recent sanctions but said Saturday work was under way to find a "fair and equitable solution."

Toronto players applauded the south stands fans as they left the field after their pre-game warmup.

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And 36 minutes into the game, Altidore launched himself into the southside fans to celebrate a beauty of a goal. Defender Drew Moor set up the play, dispossessing D.C. United forward Patrick Mullins. The ball went to midfielder Armando Cooper whose deft pass found Altidore one-on-one with defender Steve Birnbaum. Altidore turned Birnbaum inside out, then went past goalkeeper Bill Hamid before rolling the ball in for his ninth goal in his last 12 games.

The celebrations were short-lived. Three minutes later, after Toronto was unable to clear a corner, the ball was sent back and the Toronto defence found itself in disarray. Clint Irwin made a fine diving save to deny Birnbaum's shot but the rebound went straight to Neagle, who headed it in from close range.

Neagle did it again in the 58th minute firing a right-footed shot past Irwin after Lloyd Sam unlocked the Toronto defence with a through ball. Neagle has nine goals on the season with six goals coming in his last eight games.

Substitute Jordan Hamilton almost levelled the score in the 66th minute but an onrushing Hamid made the save. Toronto coach Greg Vanney threw more offence on the field in the form of Tsubasa Endoh in the 71st minute.

A flying Cooper was stopped by Hamid in the 74th minute. Referee Mark Geiger ignored a Neagle handball in the 81st minute and two minutes later Hamid stopped Michael Bradley's free kick.

TFC star striker Sebastian Giovinco, who has been out since Aug. 27 with strains in his quadriceps and abductor, missed his fifth game in a row. Toronto does not play again until Oct. 16 due to the international break, so Giovinco has more time to recover.

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Midfielder Will Johnson has a slight medial collateral ligament sprain in his knee. Midfielder-forward Tosaint Ricketts was suspended.

Vanney made five changes to the starting lineup that tied Orlando 0-0 midweek, bringing in Irwin, defenders Mark Bloom and Eriq Zavaleta, midfielder Daniel Lovitz and forward Mo Babouli.

Toronto was the team going forward early, with Jonathan Osorio misfiring on two early chances. Moor's header was just wide off a Bradley corner in the 28th minute. And Hamid made a great save with his hand to deny Bloom in the 31st minute after a fine through ball from Altidore.

Cooper, in his second Toronto start, was lively on the ball.

Toronto plays in Montreal on Oct. 16 before wrapping up the regular season on Oct. 23 at home against the Chicago Fire.

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