September 26, 2020

D.C. United Game 2 Analysis: United in win column thanks to Pajoy goal

All things considered, D.C. United is probably right where most people would have realistically expected it to be after two games of the 2013 Major League Soccer (MLS) season. Having never won at Houston, and never lost at RFK Stadium to Real Salt Lake, both patterns held in the first two weeks to leave United 1-1 with three points. Of the 10 teams in the Eastern Conference, seven currently sit on three points. Only the Montreal Impact have played two and won two (six points) so far in the East.

To accomplish that with former league Most Valuable Player Dwayne De Rosario unavailable for the first two games of the regular season due to a suspension reflects well on the efforts of the rest of the roster. It hasn’t been pretty most of the time, and it was disheartening to go a whole game without a shot on goal in the 2-0 loss at Houston, but Saturday night’s 1-0 win over RSL was a good indication of United’s competitiveness without their leader.

While there was just the one goal – a Lionard Pajoy header in the 60th minute – and six shots on goal (an infinitely better number than the season opener), there were mostly signs of improvement up and down the lineup last night. United were helped, however, by one slip from RSL, which led to the only goal.

Goal: Pajoy 1 (Unassisted), 60th minute: This play began on a United corner kick to the left of RSL goalkeeper (and former United shot-stopper) Nick Rimando. As the corner is taken, Pajoy is simply circling in the penalty box to Rimando’s right, with Kenny Mansally the closest Real Salt Lake opposition. When the corner ends up leaving the penalty area, however, RSL’s defense, almost as a unit, pushes up as United midfielder John Thorrington meets the ball.

Thorrington, some 25 yards from goal in the middle of the field, showed great patience in not simply running up to the ball, kicking it first time, and lofting a shot that landed in Bowie. Instead, Thorrington saw the looming RSL rush, and chipped a ball toward goal. When Thorrington hit it, Pajoy had just left the 6-yard box in front of Rimando. In addition, RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez was moving up from his position he had drifted to on the corner, at the post to Rimando’s left, though he wasn’t set there as would probably be preferred.

Velasquez, however, didn’t leave his position quickly. This could perhaps be in part because of United midfielder Nick DeLeon, who was similarly positioned a few yards from the RSL goal, but well off to Rimando’s left. Neither DeLeon nor Pajoy quickly evacuated their position. Had Velasquez stepped up quicker to get ahead of Pajoy and DeLeon, both would have been offside had they tried to play a rebound of Thorrington’s shot.

Eventually, Velasquez did clear DeLeon, who had also run closer to the RSL goal than had Pajoy. When Rimando dove to his right, fully extended, to get a hand on Thorrington’s cross and make the save, Pajoy was by himself. There were still six RSL players in the penalty area, but all had moved up beyond the penalty spot (including Velasquez) as Thorrington chipped the ball toward goal.

None returned to mark Pajoy, either do to over-pursuit of Thorrington, or because that’s their standard plan in such situations. Everyone but Velasquez moved up accordingly. Clearly onside, Pajoy dove forward to meet the rebound of Rimando’s save and head the ball past Rimando’s left side for the game’s only goal. Rimando and three RSL teammates immediately pointed for offside, including Velasquez.

But the RSL protests were rightly denied, as Pajoy found himself in the right place at the right time to give United their first three points of the new season. It wasn’t a perfect night for Pajoy, who was slow on the ball in the attack on a couple occasions that led to plays breaking down. Pajoy also took a caution in the 28th minute for a late, needless kick to an opponent, but managed to avoid going in the book again and getting sent off before he was substituted for in the final minutes.

However, he came up big when the opportunity arrived, and United have a victory because of it. Such is the life of a forward. Now, United get De Rosario back for Saturday’s rivalry game at the New York Red Bulls (12:30 p.m. Eastern, NBC), with a chance to move to 2-1.

Notes: Elsewhere around MLS this weekend, on Saturday Toronto FC defeated Sporting Kansas City, 2-1; New England won at Chicago, 1-0; Vancouver clipped C0lumbus, 2-1; and Montreal won away to Portland, 2-1 – marking a tremendous day for the league’s three Canadian sides. Today, Philadelphia won 2-1 at Colorado; and Chivas USA defeated FC Dallas, 3-1. Tonight on ESPN2 (10 p.m. Eastern), San Jose hosts the Red Bulls.

Ed Morgans is a Contributor to District Sports Page, covering D.C. United. Follow him on Twitter at @edmorgans.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.


  1. Ed Morgans says:

    Just to update, San Jose rallied from a goal down late last night to defeat the New York Red Bulls, 2-1. The Earthquakes are now 1-1 on the season (3 points); while the Red Bulls slipped to 0-1-1 (1 point), despite having halftime leads in both this match, and a 3-3 season-opening draw at Portland.

  2. Kirk Johnson says:

    Great recap. Only thing I would have added–Jackovic was mighty solid. If he can continue to play like he did, he could finally be the class centerback I’ve hoped he could be.

  3. Ed Morgans says:

    I would agree. I thought defensively, United did very well Saturday night – and they were just good enough to hold out late when it appeared DC had lost its legs a little bit. I thought Jakovic made a couple nice plays where he anticipated what was going to happen, got himself into the proper position, and canceled the threat.

    Korb getting deep up the left and into the attack was also good to see. Riley had a decent game after his own goal last week, which is a good sign.

    I was also happy to see Kitchen step in on Mansally after the latter’s foul on Pontius. Without Pontius, this team goes nowhere, so when someone cleans him out, I’m glad to see someone else hit the scene and make a big deal out of it.

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