D.C. United picked up their first win of the season March 9 in their 2013 home opener with a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake. In front of 17,072 screaming fans, D.C. United extended their league best home-unbeaten streak to 19 games over the last two seasons.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but following a disappointing 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo in their regular season opener, it was the perfect way for D.C. United to bounce back.
The loss was Real Salt Lake’s first of the season, coming off a quality 2-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes. The team has an unsuccessful history at RFK stadium, without a single win in their 9 visits, including Saturday night.
The first half started rather slowly, with both teams trying to essentially feel each other out. The game’s first opportunity didn’t come until the 25th minute, when D.C. United’s Chris Pontius combined with 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year finalist Nick Deleon, with the latter heading the ball just wide of the net off of a superb cross.
Both teams failed to do much of anything for the remainder of the half, with Chris Pontius and Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil having the only real shots on goal during the opening 45 minutes.
“Well, we started off shaky,” United coach Ben Olsen said after the game. “Defensively, we were pretty sound from the start, but we just looked too revved up. The guys looked antsy on the ball, and we forgot how to play soccer there for a little bit.”
The second half began with more of the same, and both teams were going back and forth, unable to create real chances. D.C. United began to look motivated, stringing passes together, controlling the tempo and launching attack after attack. But they were unlucky when it came to the finishing touch.
In the 60th Minute, D.C. United midfielder Josh Thorrington collected a loose corner kick outside the box, lifted a shot towards the top-left-corner which Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando managed to get a hand to, but an un-marked Lionard Pajoy was there to head in the rebound and put D.C. United up 1-0.
Olsen enjoyed the shift in momentum, he said. “I thought the last 15 minutes of the first half, and then up until the goal in the second half. We had a good rhythm going on, and I liked the way we were going about things.”
Speaking through a translator, Pajoy said he was delighted with his goal.
“One of those plays where as a forward you’re always aware of what might come out of it and happen to be at the right place at the right time and was able to make it happen,” he said.
For the final third of the game, it seemed as if a new Salt Lake showed up, and D.C. United seemed to disappear. Salt Lake pushed the pace, creating attacks and finally testing D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. However, it was a little too late, and D.C. United was able to hold their ground after numerous failed Real Salt Lake attacks.
A seemingly discouraged but hopeful Ben Olsen said he was happy with the result.
“When we scored we dropped off and panicked a little bit and didn’t manage the game as well as we would’ve liked to,” Olsen said, “but we hung on and that’s important at that stage of the game.”
Outside of the win, the focus quickly shifted to Josh Thorrington, who went down in the 74th minute, holding on to his left knee and unable to continue. The injury-prone midfielder underwent an MRI on March 10. Medical staff say he will be out for 8-12 weeks.
In the end, D.C. United got the result they deserved. Looking forward, they will continue their fierce rivalry with The New York Red Bulls on Saturday, March 16th at Red Bull Arena in what will certainly be a tough test early in the season.