Tampa Bay Sports Day

Defenses dominate as DC United and Real Salt Lake go scoreless

DC United and Real Salt Lake played to a scoreless draw Saturday night at RFK Stadium extending streaks for both teams.

United is now unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions since their only loss, a 2-1 decision to Real on April 11th in Salt Lake City.. They also have an astonishing seven draws in their 11 league matches including their last four league matches.

The draw earned Real their first road points of the season in five matches but they yet to score a goal outside of Rio Tinto Stadium. Real has now gone 270 minutes without scoring, last ringing the net with a Will Johnson stoppage time penalty kick against Los Angeles on May 6, only to see the Galaxy tie the match two minutes later. They are also now winless in their last six matches in all competitions since a 6-0 thumping of New England at the end of April.

Real boss Jason Kreis started five in the midfield, leaving Robbie Findley alone up top, to counter United’s standard 3-5-2 formation. The tactic paid dividends as United’s flowing attack was severely stifled by Real’s rock solid defensive structure.

“All of them played extremely well and did exactly what was asked. It was 100 percent commitment; 100 percent dedication and 100 percent hard work,” said Kreis.

This was clearly Real’s best road performance of the season limiting United to only eight shots with only one on goal, none in the first half.

“For us we’ve got crawl before we can walk and we’ve got to walk before we can run and tonight it was the first all out committed effort by our team on the defensive side of the ball in an away match so I am very, very pleased with what the guys put into that and it’s a positive step right now for us,” said Kreis.

“I think we played superb defensive soccer today and the mindset was correct,” added central defender Nat Borchers. “We really wanted to make it hard for them to break us down; make it hard for them to play over the top and make it hard for them to play from the midfield and obviously the score line reflected that.

“We kept our shape all game. We fought hard for 90-minutes. I thought the midfielders especially (defensively) made the job for everybody else real easy.”

United’s best opportunity in the match came in the 24th minute when Fred completely missed the net from inside the 6-yard box. After Robbie Russell recklessly chopped the back of Luciano Emilio’s right ankle on the left flank, Marc Burch floated the ensuing free kick to the opposite side of the penalty area with Santino Quaranta knocking the ball down nicely to Bryan Namoff, whose deft chip to the back post found the unmarked Fred whose left footed shot missed well wide and high.

“We had a good chance to score but couldn’t do it and kind of lulled ourselves to sleep and quit moving,” said United coach Tom Soehn.

United rarely threatened the deep defensive posture of Real Salt Lake and offered little creativity to break it down.

“We talked about them bunkering and they did just that, they bunkered very deep. The way you open that up is you score,” said Soehn. “You know, it’s not the first team to come here and bunker against us and the way we addressed it, we didn’t move off each other at all, we kind of just stood there and waited for the next guy to do it. In the second half we adjusted a little bit, got better, but still we obviously couldn’t back them down tonight.”

“We didn’t have any answers,” added Santino Quaranta. “I don’t think we’ve played a team that defensive and we didn’t know how to break them down.

“ Our ideas weren’t that great. It showed, so I hope we figure it out. We were lethargic and we just didn’t do it tonight. We weren’t taking charge. It’s just one of those games.”

Conversely, Real created several opportunities sending 14 shots, eight on goal at United goalkeeper Josh Wicks, but as has been their recent form, could not close the deal. Wicks played his best game of the season staking his claim to United’s revolving number one goalkeeper situation.

Most of the goalkeeping conversation leading up to this match however, revolved around who would be between the pipes for Salt Lake. Nick Rimando’s lacerated left third finger healed enough well enough to earn him the start despite speculation during the week that Kyle Reynish would make his first MLS start. Normal back-up Chris Seitz is also unavailable after with a grade-2 right shoulder strain suffered on a collision with Josh Wolff in their 2-0 loss at home last weekend.

Wicks needed to be sharp or at least alert, early and often, nearly seeing a cross by Russell deflect off Marc Burch and drift inside the near post goal but the young keeper shuffled back quickly to avert potential disaster in the end.

His first need to be sharp came in the 40th minute after Real finally cracked United’s back line. Kyle Beckerman poked a ball through to Robbie Findley, but Wicks was better, knocking away the speedy attacker’s outside of the right foot bender with both hands.

“The ball bounced around a little bit and he slipped through. I tried to close the space as much as possible and as soon as he opened up, the shot just went up and down and I was just able to get an arm on it,” said Wicks about the fine save.

Yura Movsisyan sent a low dangerous cross-shot in from the right side headed for Ned Grabavoy that Wicks did well to punch away in the 69th minute. Javier Morales slinked through three United defenders at the top left corner of the penalty area 3-minutes earlier but his ripping right footed shot was deflected over the top for a corner.

After Russell made a saving tackle on second half substitute Rodney Wallace on United’s ensuing attack, Beckerman and Findley challenged United’s young keeper twice in a minute. Wicks palmed Beckerman’s shot from distance over the bar and after Real regained control on the following corner, Wicks got down quickly to his left to deny Findley once again.

But it was Real’s defending that was the cornerstone of this result, harkening back to what got them into the playoffs for the first time a year ago.

“As a coaching staff we’ve got to put our focus on one thing. And tonight, we talked about it all week – we’ve got to get back to how we built this team, and that was defending extremely well, defending with heart, defending with one hundred percent commitment. We did those things tonight, so job well done, we’ll build from this,” said Kreis.

“Defending was our main object,” added Findley. “We worked on it all week in practice.. Defense is what got us to the position we were at the end of last year so we went back to doing that and we were able to get a point out of it.”

Apparently it worked.

“I think more importantly was we weren’t used to seeing a team packing it in the back with a 4-5-1 so I think we were a little impatient in our ability to try to find the possession style we’re normally accustomed to,” said Namoff.

“There were a lot of forced balls, a lot of balls we tried to play in behind that got cut out. So you have to give credit to them. They did a good job of just isolating the forwards and not allowing us to play.”

Scoring Summary:

Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales (Andy Williams 94+), Will Johnson, Robbie Findley (Chris Wingert 87), Clint Mathis (Yura Movsisyan 61),

Substitutes Not Used: Raphael Cox, Fabian Espindola, Tino Nunez, Kyle Reynish

D.C. United — Josh Wicks, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Christian Gomez, Andrew Jacobson, Clyde Simms, Fred (Rodney Wallace 61), Jaime Moreno (Chris Pontius 46), Santino Quaranta, Luciano Emilio (Ange N’Silu 70).

Substitutes Not Used: Greg Janicki, Avery John, Milos Kocic, Devon McTavish

D.C. United Real Salt Lake
Total shots: 8 (Fred 2) 14 (Kyle Beckerman 3,
Nat Borchers 3)
Shots on goal: 1 (Christian Gomez 1) 8 (3 tied with 2)
Fouls: 10 (Clyde Simms 2,
Rodney Wallace 2) 8 (Ned Grabavoy 2,
Robbie Russell 2)
Offsides: 4 (Christian Gomez 2) 0
Corner kicks: 1 (Christian Gomez 1) 7 (Javier Morales 7)
Saves: 8 (Josh Wicks 8) 1 (Nick Rimando 1)

Misconduct Summary:
RSL — Robbie Russell (caution; Reckless Foul) 37

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee’s Assistants: Bill Dittmar; Jeff Muschik
4th official: Mark Geiger
Time of game: 1:54
Attendance: 16,089
Weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 80 degrees