March 8, 2021

D.C. United GAME RECAP: All joy for Pajoy, United in 1-0 win vs. RSL

Lionard Pajoy’s diving header past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando gave D.C. United a 1-0 win over RSL at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Saturday night. The win levels United’s Major League Soccer season record at 1-1, 3 points. RSL, winners last week at San Jose, slipped to 1-1, 3 points.

Pajoy, who had struggled prior to the goal and didn’t do much after it, made the most of his one shining moment. On a United corner kick in the 60th minute, the ball left the penalty area and was met by United midfielder J0hn Thorrington. Thorrington patiently waited a second before chipping the ball over the onrushing Real Salt Lake defenders. Thorrington’s touch forced Rimando to dive all out to his right, and he saved the shot with his hand. But that left the rebound available in the penalty area with only Pajoy to play it. He dove forward and headed the ball home for United’s first goal of the season.

Rimando and some RSL teammates looked for an offside call on Pajoy, but it rightly wasn’t given. Pajoy was clearly onside when Thorrington shot the ball, thus it was perfectly legal for him, unmarked, to follow up and score.

United played a very organized game defensively, holding Real Salt Lake to just two shots on goal, both saved by Bill Hamid, who had another impressive shot-stopping performance when called upon. Dejan Jakovic in particular was strong, both in reading plays to break them up thanks to good anticipation, and stepping in to make tackles where necessary. James Riley started after scoring an own goal last week, and also wasn’t shy about stepping up to RSL attackers and taking the ball away. Chris Korb defended and was a part of the United attack, often overlapping with left midfielder Marcos Sanchez to get deep into RSL’s defensive third.

While United didn’t dominate offensively, they looked much more dangerous and composed with Chris Pontius playing the midfield role behind Pajoy. This allowed Thorrington to play what seemed a bit more of a natural for him, and he was also good tonight – though he left with a possible injury late in the second half. United had five shots on goal to RSL’s two, and six corners to RSL’s four, though many of the Real Salt Lake corners came late in the game when they increased their offensive pressure looking for the equalizing goal.

For the second straight match to start the season, United played without former MLS Most Valuable Player Dwayne De Rosario, who was serving the final game of his suspension for a preseason incident against Philadelphia. De Rosario, one of the league’s best midfielders, will be available for next Saturday’s match at the New York Red Bulls.

But with Pontius centrally placed, Thorrington in what appeared to be a more comfortable role, and the defense organized and playing well, United withstood De Rosario’s absence much better than in last week’s 2-0, season-opening loss at the Houston Dynamo. United now carries some momentum into next week’s meeting with the arch-rival Red Bulls, a team United eliminated from the playoffs last year.

New forward Carlos Ruiz made his United debut tonight, coming on as a substitute in the 84th minute. His flick from short range off a Kyle Porter cross was saved by Rimando.

On Sunday, I’ll take a more detailed look at United’s first victory of the new season.

NOTES: Pajoy was cautioned in the 28th minute for a late kick after the play. But that was the only card United received on the night. RSL was cautioned four times. … One of those came in the 63rd minute to Kenny Mansally. Officially, he was carded for fouling Pontius. After the foul, however, Mansally appeared to headbutt United midfielder Perry Kitchen in the chest. … Attendance was 17,072. … Along with Ruiz and Porter, Marcelo Saragosa also saw time as a substitute for United head coach Ben Olsen.

Ed Morgans is a Contributor to District Sport 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.

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