Correction to This Article
A June 24 Sports article incorrectly said that rookie Robbie Findley was the only player in Real Salt Lake's lineup who had scored a goal in a Major League Soccer game this season. Alecko Eskandarian scored a goal earlier this season while playing for Toronto FC.

Real Salt Lake Leaves United With Bitter Taste

United's Luciano Emilio, who scored a goal in the 87th minute, vies for the ball with Real Salt Lake's Ritchie Kotschau, right, in the first half.
United's Luciano Emilio, who scored a goal in the 87th minute, vies for the ball with Real Salt Lake's Ritchie Kotschau, right, in the first half. (Douglas C. Pizac - AP)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 24, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY, June 23 -- D.C. United had not lost in almost two months. Real Salt Lake had not won in more than nine months. United had scored seven goals its previous two matches. Real had just one player on its active roster who had scored this season -- and he had done it for another team.

But what probably should have been a leisurely evening for United and the extension of its unbeaten streak to eight instead crumbled into one of the most embarrassing performances in recent memory.

Unable to navigate the artificial turf and defenseless against newly acquired rookie Robbie Findley, United did little right until the final desperate moments and fell to previously winless Real, 2-1, Saturday night before 16,319 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"We talked about it all week that no matter what game it is, there are no layups in our league no matter who you play," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "And if you don't come out and match the intensity, you are not going to win."

D.C. (5-4-2) did not manage its first serious threat until Findley -- who was not sure he would play because of an ankle problem -- had scored his second in the 50th minute against backup goalkeeper Jay Nolly.

United's Luciano Emilio converted on a scramble in the six-yard box in the 87th minute, but Guy-Roland Kpene missed a clear chance to tie during added time.

"We came soft and light and took them as a last-place team," midfielder Ben Olsen said, "and they came out fighting for their lives."

United's lack of possession and defensive breakdowns left Nolly stranded in one-on-one situations against the swift Findley, who gave Real (1-5-6) a well-deserved lead late in the first half. Nolly, acquired from Real in the Freddy Adu trade during the offseason, started for the first time so Troy Perkins could take a break before the club embarked on a busy stretch of the summer.

Nolly's inclusion was the only surprise on Soehn's lineup sheet. Bobby Boswell returned from suspension and Rod Dyachenko made his second consecutive start in place of Copa America-bound Jaime Moreno.

Soehn had an abundance of options compared to new Real coach Jason Kreis, who traded Chris Klein to Los Angeles during the week and was without Adu (U.S. under-20 national team duty) as well as injured leading scorer Chris Brown. The only player in Real's starting lineup to score this year was Findley, who did it while playing for the Galaxy before being acquired this week.

Despite Real's problems, United had to proceed with caution. A year ago here, moments from victory, United was called for two penalty kicks and lost, 2-1, triggering a season downfall from which the club never fully recovered. The other big issue was the turf. On Saturday, United might as well have worn ice skates because, in standard shoes, its dribbling and passing were abysmal.

"We can use that as an excuse, but it would be a poor one," Olsen said.

The fast, hard surface undermined United's efforts to establish a rhythm and left the club laboring to even place a shot on Nick Rimando's net, and United showed little determination to take control of the match.

"Until we went down 2-0, I think they beat us to every second ball and they just outfought us," midfielder Josh Gros said.

In the 41st minute, Jean-Martial Kipre delivered a long ball that Findley gathered behind the overcommitted Boswell. The D.C. defender signaled for offside, but did not get it. He tried to catch Findley, but could not do that either, and the quick forward calmly beat Nolly to the far corner from 12 yards.

Before halftime arrived, a disgusted Soehn yanked the ineffective Dyachenko and inserted Kpene. United went to the locker room having been outshot 12-3 and having given up five corner kicks while generating none -- this against a team last in the league in scoring.

Findley struck again five minutes into the second half when he clumsily controlled Alecko Eskandarian's pass in the clear after getting behind Boswell and Facundo Erpen and beat Nolly with a low shot.

"I need to come up with one of those saves to keep us in the game," Nolly said.

United's game took on greater urgency, but all it could muster was Emilio's sixth goal of the year and Kpene's excruciating miss.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company