Real Salt Lake was inches away from escaping the nation’s capital with a draw.
If midfielder Sebastian Velasquez had taken a step or two forward, it likely would have put D.C. United’s Lionard Pajoy in an offside position, negating his game-winning header. Or if one of the second-half blasts from Khari Stephenson or Lovel Palmer had been inches in one direction or another, the ball might have squeaked past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Rapids at RSLSaturday, 4 p.m.
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Even so, coming away from a two-game road trip on opposite coasts with three points is enough to make RSL coach Jason Kreis happy.
"If you would have offered me three points before the season started," he said after the 1-0 loss Saturday in Washington, D.C., "I would have taken it every single day."
Real goalkeeper Nick Rimando agrees.
"Yeah, whenever you get at least one win out of those two, you’re doing okay," he said. "You know, [we’re] battling injuries — some guys stepped up. It feels good coming back home with three points."
Salt Lake earned those points with a season-opening 2-0 win at San Jose on March 3.
RSL now plays its first match of the season at Rio Tinto Stadium, a venue that saw the home team go undefeated in 34 straight matches from 2009 to 2011. Last season, RSL went 12-4-3 in all competitions at Rio Tinto, outscoring opponents 29-15 in the process.
"If we play like we did tonight, especially in front of our fans and get the energy from them, it’s going to be an exciting night for us next weekend," Rimando said. "It’s good to be home, and we’re excited to be there and finally get this road trip out of the way."
Saturday’s matchup against the Colorado Rapids is the first of three legs in the Rocky Mountain Cup, a rivalry RSL has dominated for the past six seasons.
"We’re excited, of course," RSL captain and former Colorado Rapid Kyle Beckerman said. "We get to open our stadium. I think our fans are really looking forward to playing a game in the stadium against our rivals. It’s always a big one."
So if failing to earn a point against D.C. hurt, it’s time to leave the pain behind, RSL forward Robbie Findley said after the loss.
"We were hoping to get a result, but it is what it is, you know?" he said. "So now we got to focus on next week’s training and get ourselves ready for the Saturday match, and we got to get a definite three points at home."
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