The crowd of 17, 288 was treated to quite a match last night in Washington, D.C. Real Salt lake came to town to face the Black-and-Red and it turned out to be quite the barn burner, 10 goals were scored in total between the two clubs. Not many, if any, predicted those types of fireworks heading into this game. Especially not 10 goals, the team atop the tables in the East showed their character by responding after going down 0-2. They then scored three unanswered goals before trading scores with RSL, before trading several goals with them en route to the 6-4 win. At the start of the season, United was known for having a fierce defense with an attack that mustered just enough to get a lead and hold on. Real Salt Lake met the newer version, the A.S. version, which stands for “After Saborio”. The new version has the firepower to score with anyone in the league, in the two games in which he’s played, the Black-and-Red have scored nine goals.
United suffered again from a slow start, going down two goals with the first being scored just 1:30 into the match. Joao Plata started the high scoring affair off with a well placed shot from the top of the box that found the lower left corner of the goal. United’s Andrew Dykstra dove, but just couldn’t get his fingers on it.
RSL built off of that early goal from there, pressuring United and keeping them from starting a rhythm or sustaining possession. The visitors were able to spread United’s backline out and attack from the flanks, resulting in huge pockets of space for Real Salt Lake in the box. Their next few attempts would be of quality, but did not find the back of the net. D.C started to close down a bit better, but the second goal of the game came from one of those huge pockets of space. Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman struck a brilliant shot from about 25 yards out, there was a slight bend to the blistering ball. When the ball hit the far post, it spun back into the net with an impressive pace on it. Giving RSL a 2-0 lead over the Eastern conference leaders just 20 minutes into the match.
“It’s great that we can respond, it’s not great we have to respond like that” – United’s Taylor Kemp
Like several other times this season, the Black-and-Red seemed to get comfortable after going down. They started to sustain possession a bit better, their wings started to make a difference on the flanks. Chris Rolfe and Nick DeLeon delivered masterful performances in this one, both causing chaos down their respective sidelines by winning in 1v1 situations and providing service up to Fabian Espindola and Alverado Saborio.
The recently reunited duo of Fabi and Sabo got going for United as well, Sabo really started leaning on the RSL’s centre backs. Generating chances for himself as well as others, resulting in five corners for the home side in the half. As the tide began to change, the chances got better and better for United. Sabo had several headers that were struck cleanly, but were blocked by defenders or saved by Jeff Attinellla. Similar to last week, the Black-and-Red were looking to get on the board before the end of the half.
Their opportunity came off of a missed chance from Espindola, he had combined well with Rolfe to get space to take a shot in the box. The ball deflected off of a Salt Lake defender onto the left foot of Rolfe on the touchline. Then, Rolfe worked his magic. He made two simple moves, both of which helped him evade the two defenders that were in front of him before firing a right footed rocket far post that found nothing but net in the 42nd minute. Rolfe would get another chance just four minutes later before the half ended, but the ball sailed on him. The teams went into the intermission with Real Salt Lake holding a 2-1 lead.
The start of the second half is where everything went crazy, the half was literally a blur. Bobby Boswell was pulled down in the box on one of United’s nine corners of the evening, Rolfe stepped up to take the penalty kick and calmly put it past the keeper to tie the game at two a piece. That goal happened in the 53rd minute, just five minutes later Taylor Kemp and that left foot of his put another goal in for the Black-and-Red. Kemp’s opportunity came after Justen Glad blocked a shot from Fabi in the box, the ball rolled out to Taylor who took no time at all to fire the ball past the diving Attinella. It was a marvelous strike from Kemp who walked us through the goal after the game ” there was a guy coming pretty fast, I didn’t want to take a touch or anything[laughs], thought why not? It came out well and was happy to get a goal.”
Real Salt Lake wasted no time responding as Aaron Maund scored off a set piece. His header tied it at three in the 61st minute, it was United’s turn to respond and they did. Just seconds later Sabo put a ball on target that didn’t find the net, his running mate would score just a few seconds later. A ball was placed to the far post and Fabi out-muscled Glad and got a touch on a the ball, a very faint touch that dribbled, well crawled across the goal line to reclaim the lead for the Black-and-Red. Three minutes later, Fabi got another chance but the shot was blocked.
After earning a corner, RSL’s Javier Morales got his second assist of the night (his first was on Maund’s goal) as Abdoulie Mansally climbed the ladder in the box and his header beat Dykstra to tie the game at four in the 67th minute. That put the total at eight goals, again the home team would respond.
Perry Kitchen would get on the board in the 78th minute with a near post header, Kemp provided the service after a short corner was taken by United. The threat of Fabi and Sabo gave Kemp and Chris Korb so much room to operate when they pushed up the field to join the attack. It was definitely the best any United attack had looked this season, with a 5-4 lead the scoring would be done right?
” I thought Nick DeLeon was magnificent”- United Coach Ben Olsen
United kept pushing, owning the last 12 minutes of the game by sustaining possession and creating chances. The Black-and-Red finished the high scoring night off with possibly the best goal of the night, Rolfe’s first was definitely up there. Rolfe and DeLeon had been causing trouble all game, Nick had finally broke through and scored in last week’s come-from-behind win. He would cap last night’s game off in the 85th minute, screaming down the wing he beat his first defender inside. From there the kept possession and dribbled across the box, before reaching the center of the top of the box, he fired a left footed laser past the keeper. Like Kemp’s strike, Attinella had no shot at getting a hand on the ball.
It was a great win for United, even if the start was awful. They’ve went from a stellar defensive team that struggled to score to an offensive juggernaut (at least in the last two matches) that struggles to play defense. As Coach Olsen mentioned after the game, they’re “searching for some type of balance” between the two. All of that is going on while they’ve kept a tight grip on the top spot in the East. Obviously there are things to work on going forward, but for once, the attack might not be one of them.