WASHINGTON, D.C. March 11, 2013 — Lionard Pajoy opened D.C. United’s home campaign with a goal, while Carlos Ruiz made a fine cameo appearance, as the D.C. outfit downed Real Salt Lake 1-0 at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.
In the absence of the suspended Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius was United’s key man. The sharpshooter was being bullied and pushed around by the Real defense until he finally found some space, connecting on a pass from Pajoy and fired a fine left-footer, forcing former United goalie Nick Rimando to make a fine save.
Pontius is certainly one of America’s most dangerous players at the top of the 18-yard box. His effort seemed to wake up a sluggish game. Nick Deleon tried to get in the action. The United sophomore midfielder, who was so impressive last season, fired a shot over Rimando’s goal.
On the hour mark, United broke through. United newcomer John Thorrington powered a high shot that Rimando did brilliantly to save, only for the ball to land in the path of Pajoy, who with a fine diving header gave United the 1-0 lead.
Perry Kitchen continues to be the muscle man on the field for United, showing maturity beyond his years in controlling the middle of the park. What a great find this kid is. It won’t be too long before the red, white and blue comes calling.
“Perry is not just a physical presence but a good soccer player,” noted United coach Ben Olsen in his post-game interview.
United goalie Bill Hamid had little to do on the night until late in the game, doing well to stop a Khari Stephenson shot. Apart from that, it’s hard to recall any other decent efforts on goal from Real.
Kyle Porter had a decent game for United, coming on as a second half substitute and getting a decent shot on goal and helping out with defensive duties. Brandon McDonald came up with some key defending in the United box, while newcomer James Riley, gradually fills Andy Najar’s big shoes.
Finally, in the 83rd minute of the game, the long-awaited debut of Ruiz took place to a huge roar from the United faithful as he replaced Pajoy. And Ruiz did not disappoint, firing a well-placed shot that kept Rimando on his toes. It got better. In the dying seconds, Ruiz almost had a dream start when he connected with a cross from Porter and almost beat Rimado with a shot. Welcome to D.C., Carlos.
While the first half was a snooze, overall it was a fine game from the United team and three well-earned points. Coach Ben Olsen should be happy with most of his key players.
Why United still needs some fine tuning, things are going in the right direction.
“It’s all fixable,” Olsen said.
What can be said about the United fans? As usual the 17,072 crowd was in fine voice and produced an amazing tifo display before the kickoff. “A win tonight here is big for the fans and sends them home happy,” said Olsen.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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