Washington, D.C. • Two straight road wins to open the Major League Soccer season was not to be for Real Salt Lake.
A second-half strike by D.C. United forward Lionard Pajoy earned the hosts a 1-0 win at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, as RSL failed to win a regular-season game in the nation’s capital for the eighth time.
RSL hapless in D.C.Real Salt Lake suffers its first loss of the regular season when D.C.’s Lionard Pajoy scores in the 60th minute.
» RSL is winless in eight regular-season attempts against D.C. United at RFK Stadium.
Optimism isn’t unusual at the start of a season, and despite failing to come away with any points, there was a strong feeling that this game was another step in the right direction after an opening-season win in San Jose last weekend.
"It’s always tough to take a loss, but I’m actually not too mad," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said after the game. "I thought the performance from the guys was great — our response when they scored the goal was great."
Seeing as it was the second game of the regular season, the opening 15 minutes of proceedings were choppy and disjointed, with neither team able to threaten the other’s goal. But as the half wore on, the game came to life. Rimando had to be alert to punch away a low-driven shot by Chris Pontius after he worked a combination through RSL’s back line in the 32nd minute.
The second half picked up in similar fashion, possession fluctuating between both clubs, and chances limited until United broke the deadlock through Pajoy’s 60th-minute tally. It came after RSL failed to fully clear a corner, the ball falling to the feet of midfielder John Thorrington at the top of the penalty area. He chipped a shot that Rimando saved, but straight to Pajoy, who headed home an unfortunate goal in RSL’s eyes with replays showing Pajoy barely onside.
"[It was] very unlucky on the goal situation, because inches literally mean that player is on. If Seba [Velasquez] had been a few inches or a few feet out of the goal, it would have been a clear offside," coach Jason Kreis said.
Conceding the goal jolted life into RSL, as young midfielders Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez probed and prodded for openings in search of an equalizer. The best chance came in the 73rd minute when a Gil flick-on found Khari Stephenson in space on the left side of the penalty box, but Hamid punched away a fiercely struck shot.
A series of corner kick opportunities followed the save, though RSL was unable to test the D.C. goalkeeper. Substitute Lovel Palmer came close as well, as his shot from 30 yards out went just wide in the 83rd minute.
Regardless of the failure to equalize, the way the team picked themselves up after conceding the goal earned praise from Kreis.
"I’m really pleased with how they responded to going a goal down," he said. "There was no feeling sorry for themselves — it was ‘now we have to be a little more aggressive with our decisions,’ and I thought our guys had a terrific response."
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