When D.C. United walked off the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium two weeks ago, the sting of a 4-0 blowout loss to Real Salt Lake was only tempered by the knowledge that the chance for revenge would come very soon.
That chance came on Saturday and D.C. took full advantage, riding two penalty kicks and two stunning strikes to earn a 4-1 victory at RFK Stadium. The victory was complete, entertaining and above all, healing for a D.C. club in desperate need of some proof that it was as good as the pre-season hype.
The vibe isn’t as good for Real Salt Lake, which is once again struggling with the prospects of being a losing team. Despite all the new talent on the roster, RSL is struggling once again.
SBI Correspondents Joel Sanderson and Scott McAllister watched the D.C. United-RSL match and give us their takes on the match:
Payback wasn’t kind to Real Salt Lake
By SCOTT McALLISTER
The drawback to blowing out a team like DC United is the rematch – especially when the two matches are less than a month apart.
Leading up to Real Salt Lake’s rematch at DC I was not looking forward looking forward to watching to carnage that I was expecting. In fact, I didn’t watch – at least not live. In all honesty, I intended to catch the tape-delayed broadcast, but my Saturday got away from me.
Thanks to MLSnet.com I was able to watch a recording in the pixilated 4″ square box on my home computer before work on Monday morning. Not quite like joining the few hundred gathered downtown at Brewvies, but it was better than nothing.
After recognizing that his team came out too conservatively against Toronto last week, you had the sense that RSL was going to come out pressuring DC from the opening whistle. This they did with energy, and it was encouraging to watch the attacking-minded possession controlled by Salt Lake in the opening 12 minutes or so. Even though they couldn’t get a shot off until about the 39th minute, it was nice to see RSL take the game to DC.
However, in typical United fashion, the home side simply sat back and gradually took control of the first half. RSL never seemed to simply lie down and give the game away, but DC controlled for the remainder of the first half.
Having to face a pair of penalties, with Jamie Moreno behind the ball, is never a good day for any goalkeeper. Then giving up volleys from the back post was the order of the day on DC’s final two goals. You would figure the Salt Lake defense would learn from Santino Quaranta’s goal that they needed to close the backdoor, but Marcelo Gallardo found himself in nearly the same spot as Quaranta and the Argentine made the most of his open opportunity.
Except for those two breakdowns the RSL defense really had a descent game, and the midfield wasn’t terrible either. The area of concern, as it has in the past, is in the final third. Yeah, they scored four on DC a couple weeks back, but by all signs before and since show that was an anomaly.
Up next is a pair of games against the league’s California clubs. The midweek tilt against the Earthquakes is a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup play-in match. Expect RSL to take the game seriously, but not to the point of starting their entire first eleven. Then on Saturday Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy roll into town. The U.S. International is scoring goals at a feverish pace this season, bagging eight in the first five MLS contests. With his past success at Rice-Eccles Stadium, I would expect Donovan to get at least one past Rimando on Saturday.
D.C. United gives its fans a reason to smile again
By JOEL SANDERSON
Finally. A chance to focus on the good stuff. That’s what I’m going to do for this article, just think about the good things. A win over RSL doesn’t heal all ills, but I’m going to let myself be appeased, if only for the first few paragraphs.
Why am I in a good mood? Did you see the game? After 20 minutes of flat play that made it look like another flat day, DC dominated. 4-1 and all the goals were earned from the fantastic pressure DC kept slamming at the defense. For 70 straight minutes, DC owned the midfield and overlapped and switched play and just… let’s just say that my stomach didn’t put itself in knots with fear that “we could be out of this game in minutes.” Nope. Not on Saturday. Even is RSL had pulled out a goal against the flow of play, I would have been confident that DC would pull it out.
Santino Quaranta is still good at soccer. This was a question coming into the game for me just because I’ve been afraid that he’s eventually just regress into uninterested boy again, like Emilio has. Not this year, at least not yet. He has arguably been the best DC player on the field for three of the five games. In this game he was putting pressure on the wings and found himself in some nice positions. Even better is that he’s making the right choices once he gets the ball in his feet. The announcer threw out him as MLS Player of the Year. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is the best string of games he’s put together in his career, so there’s some time.
The new guys are starting to slide in. While Peralta and I still aren’t hanging out, Gonzalo Martinez and I have become good friends. I may even invite him over to play FIFA soon. Gallardo hasn’t looked bad in previous games, he just hasn’t been able to fit into his required role as attacking distributor. This week he was pushing the ball out to the wings, ripping off shots from distance, and showed his talent. He connected on that goal Gerrard-style, where the ball just rockets off the foot. The last few games everyone has seemed a step short, wondering where the next ball is going, waiting for someone to take the lead in the soccer dance. Gallardo took the lead, with Moreno and Martinez, (there’s 10 dancers, at least three leads is imperative) and the team flowed.
Mr. Moreno showed that he remains an answer. I’m quite sure that he couldn’t outrun Oprah, but he doesn’t need to. He’s wily, like a Welshman. He still strikes the ball exquisitely. Quaranta was in the right place on his goal, but that was Moreno’s display of skill.
Fred’s injury worries because the games where Quaranta hasn’t been the best player, Fred has. Fred is still a little to much flash for me, but the substance has looked nice. For the first four games, it looked like he had evolved from role player to potential star. The other biggest worry remains Emilio. Even he looked better than he had, but he moves like a fat man. Moreno has his wiliness. Emilio has his laziness.
Since I was overly optimistic to start the year and got burned, I’m holding back from getting excited after one win. Plus the Revs and the Red Bulls won, so the best weeks remain when those teams get stomped and we win. The vengeful 4-1 is sweet though.