Lionard Pajoy’s 60th minute goal was enough as D.C. United defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0 tonight at RFK Stadium. The win for United (1-1-0 3 points) is their 19th consecutive match without a loss at the old stadium going back to last season’s opening game loss to Sporting Kansas City. Real Salt Lake (1-1-0 3 points) is still win less in Washington all-time. The match was pretty benign through the first forty-five minutes with only Chris Pontius’ sharp angle shot in the 32nd minute being well saved by former United goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
After the break things started to heat up and in the 60th minute United forged ahead. John Thorrington corralled a poor clearance from a Pontius corner and sent a deft chip towards goal that forced Rimando to back peddle just to flap the ball away. Pajoy was right there to head the ball into an empty net as RSL surrounded the referee to ask why Pajoy wasn’t adjudged to be in an offside position. After replays, the assistant referee made the correct call as an RSL defender was slow to come out of the goal on Thorrington’s original shot on goal.
Three minutes later more controversy erupted as RSL defender Kenny Mansally appeared to have head-butted Perry Kitchen. After a brief dust up between the two teams, the referee only awarded a yellow card to Mansally after consulting with one of his assistant referee’s. The edginess continued throughout the remainder of the match as both teams had solid claims for some rough fouls that were never called.
United, playing without their captain Dwayne De Rosario while serving the second of his two-game suspension for his preseason head butt, lacked creativity on offense for the most part but were rock solid defensively all night long, forcing only two saves from Bill Hamid on the night.
After the match head coach Ben Olsen didn’t want to get drawn into a debate about the effectiveness of the goal scorer Pajoy. “He scored the goal,” Olsen said in response to a question describing the numerous missed opportunities Pajoy had to either shoot or setup a teammate in scoring position. “I’m not going to bag on him tonight because he scored.”
Carlos Ruiz made his debut with United and should have scored in extra time when he was set up beautifully by another substitute Kyle Porter. Porter broke free with the ball down the right wing as RSL were pushing numbers forward and his pass hit Ruiz in stride but Rimando came out and closed down the Guatemalan striker who surely would have sent the 17,072 fans into hysteria had he scored on his home debut.
United will now face their rivals Red Bull New York next weekend in their home opener. The last time United was in Red Bull Arena was this past November in their 1-0 win over Red Bull which eliminated them from the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs.