The Black-and-Red didn’t play particularly well at any point in Friday’s match against Real Salt Lake. Still, a Jared Jeffery goal in stoppage time gave D.C. United a hard earned point on the road.
That header wouldn’t of mattered had it not been for Bill Hamid. After one of their most complete performances last week against New England, the Black-and-Red looked to have regressed. Their high pressure wasn’t really effective, they struggled to keep possession, and worst of all they struggled to defend.
After coming out in a 4-3-3 against New England, D.C. United took the field against Real Salt Lake in a 4-1-4-1. It just didn’t flow the same as the match prior, obviously it was against different opponents, but they really struggled and nearly lost on the road.
The home side went up in the 57th minute courtesy of a flash of individual brilliance from Juan Manuel Martinez. He received a pass from Yura Movsisyan before beating two defenders in close space and beat Hamid with a chip shot. It wasn’t the first time that a Real Salt Lake player got a point blank shot on Hamid, just the first time that the visiting keeper was beat.
The visitors never seized control of the tempo, it was all Real Salt Lake. Despite Steve Birnbaum returning to D.C. United, he didn’t play. The centre back pairing was Bobby Boswell and Kofi Opare. It felt as if RSL was attacking him whenever given a chance, it’s a group effort to defend, but he was the culprit on several plays.
For as great a player as he’s been throughout his career, at this point he can’t be in a 1v1 situation with a quick player. It’s just too much for him, this isn’t to say that he should be benched in favor of a Birnbaum-Opare pairing, but the time to consider it may be drawing near.
As for the attack, the passing was lacking. Too often, balls were played too late or off target. Alvaro Saborio didn’t do as good a job in hold-up play in this contest, that hurt the attack at times as well. Late in the game, D.C. United did get that from Alhaji Kamara. He was able to get the ball up top and distribute it a bit, which opened things up for the visiting side for the first time all night.
Despite a mostly poor showing, D.C. United should be commended for not mailing it in from an effort standpoint. Fabian Espindola played a great ball to the far post and Jeffery struck the ball well for the tying goal. One of the first times at least in recent memory that the Black-and-Red came out on the right side of a stoppage time tally.
Hamid was outstanding, the boxscore says 7 saves but it felt like twice as many. Once again, D.C. United benefits from having the best keeper in the league. At least they didn’t let his herculean performance go for naught. Picking up a hard earned one point on a night that they didn’t play their best.