By Jae Groll
A late penalty converted by Charlie Davies kept DC United from giving away 3 points in a tight game against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. The 1-1 scoreline was the result of 2 spot kicks both of which were questionable at best.
DC United came into the game playing a very positive style. The controlled the ball for long portions of the first half keeping RSL off their usual ball control offense.
Both teams did have their chances in the opening stanza. On 14 minutes DC’s Chris Pontius had a goal rightly call back for offside when teammate Josh Wolf was just a step behind the defense on a 2nd ball in from a corner kick.
A few minutes later on 18′ RSL’s Tony Beltran sprung Collin Warner down the right side. Warner’s cross just missed a lunging Jean Alexander on the doorstep for the opener.
On 22′ Pontius once again showed his danger. With a nifty move on the left wing past Beltran he fired his shot low but it was smothered by RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
28′ saw Fabian Espindola cut in from the right sideline and fire a blast from 35 yards that was on target and too hot for DC keeper Bill Hamid to handle. It was all he could do to palm it down and out for a corner kick.
The first of the ‘soft’ penalties came on 38′ when Kyle Beckerman wound his way down the left flank. As he cut back on the edge of the 18 yard box near the end line DC defender Chris Simms slipped to the ground. Simms’ arm then inadvertently interfered with Beckerman’s cut-back pass and the referee pointed to the spot.
Espindola stepped up and easily put the ball in the back of the net sending Hamid the wrong way.
The second half saw DC United thwarted by the goal frame on two separate occasions. Five minutes out of the break Pontius once again showed his attacking intent with a rocket from the top of the half-circle that slammed off the cross bar
. Nick Rimando was surely beaten by the strike but it wasn’t enough to level the score.
The equalizer came on 83 minutes. Charlie Davies and Fred steaming down the pitch on a counter attack found RSL on the back foot. Davies was tackled by former roommate Chris Wingert in the box for the second ‘soft’ penalty of the game. The replay showing Davies clearly cheated by simulation on the play.
Davies took the kick and while Rimando guessed correctly the shot was too hard for the RSL keeper to get to it.
In his post game comments Wingert talked about the play. “It’s almost laughable, I don’t know what to say. Charlie is a friend of mine … we roomed together in (U.S.) National Team camp. He even looked at me, kind of smiling. He knew. It’s a shame we lost two points on that play because it really wasn’t even close.”
DC United once again had a chance for the win in extra time with a free kick outside the top right corner of the box. The ball was laid off for Pontius on a nicely rehearsed and executed set piece. He was once again was denied by the crossbar.
DC United now sit on 17 points after 14 games played and RSL sit on 22 after 13 played. RSL continue their run of games against eastern conference opponents on the 22nd against the Chicago Fire. DC have a week off hosting Houston on the 25th.
Man of the Match: DC United’s Chris Pontius looked the most dangerous man on the pitch all evening. He hit the crossbar 2 times, had a goal called back for offside, and also had 2 shots saved by Rimando. If he keeps this form up for the remainder of the season DC fans have much to look forward to.
Missing Morales: With play maker Javier Morales out RSL have struggled to find someone to fill the “Number10” role that he masterfully handled. RSL were at times forced to play the long ball when things broke down in midfield. Clearly they are missing something in that linkup between midfield and the front line. When asked about what fill in Collin Warner can do differently to put his stamp on games Jason Kreis had “no comment”.