United 5,

Real Salt Lake 1

D.C. United's 5-1 victory over expansion Real Salt Lake last night was as eventful for what didn't occur as what did.

The goals were scored by Jaime Moreno (from the penalty spot), Freddy Adu (from 27 yards), Christian Gomez (from a mere yard), Moreno again (on a snappy one-timer) and reserve Jamil Walker (all by himself). But also of great import, United avoided any red cards, own goals and late-game breakdowns that have contributed heavily to the club's recent slide.

The result was an almost stress-free win before 11,455 at RFK Stadium that snapped a two-game losing streak in MLS play (three games overall) and moved United (12-8-5) into a second-place tie with Kansas City in the Eastern Conference with seven matches remaining.

"It was a very tough week for us, [but] we know our potential," Coach Peter Nowak said. "It's still a very discouraging thing for everyone if you lost three in a week in the fashion like we did. We move forward, we never look over our shoulders."

Moreno and Adu scored in the first half, but newly acquired Melvin Tarley answered for Real Salt Lake (5-15-4) just after the break. Gomez's 63rd-minute goal, Moreno's strike 15 minutes later -- which propelled him to the top of the league scoring race with 12 goals -- and Walker's clean finish sealed it against an opponent that has lost four straight and fell to 0-11-1 on the road.

Besides setting a season high for goals, United kept its composure for almost the entire match. There were no red cards, like the previous two games, and the only disciplinary setback was Josh Gros's foolish foul that resulted in a yellow card and a one-game suspension to be served Saturday in Colorado. Real's Kenny Cutler received the only red card after collecting his second yellow late in the match.

United's other concerns were own goals -- a pair by rookie Bobby Boswell on consecutive weekends had led to losses to Los Angeles and New England -- and poor defending in the late stages of close games. United did lose its rhythm early in the second half last night, but the attack put the outcome to rest with more than 25 minutes left and allowed Nowak to provide early exits for Moreno, Gomez and Ben Olsen.

"We knew we were due to just explode and have a lot of goals in one of these games sometime soon," said Adu, 16, who passed his driver's test in the morning and scored his third goal of the season in the evening. "It's a really good feeling."

United seized the lead in the 14th minute when Gomez was taken down by rookie goalkeeper Jay Nolly and Moreno converted his eighth penalty kick of the year on eight attempts.

Real nearly got even in the 33rd minute when Jason Kreis's header off Clint Mathis's free kick struck the crossbar and Eddie Pope sent the short rebound high.

But as the half approached, Adu found some space, pushed the ball to his left and then picked his spot: lower left corner. It wasn't the hardest shot of his blossoming career, but the direction was perfect, a skipping bid that beat the extended Nolly for his first goal since his dramatic game-winner during injury time at Los Angeles on July 23.

After Tarley cut the deficit in half by working well with Andy Williams, Gomez restored the two-goal margin. Gros crossed to Gomez, whose hard one-timer was stopped by Nolly. However, the goalie couldn't hold the ball, leaving it for the Argentine playmaker just short of the goal line.

Moreno got his second of the evening on a one-timer from 20 yards and Walker joined the fun with a clear run at the beleaguered Nolly with four minutes left for his second goal of the month.

"It's big for our confidence, it's big for our heads," D.C. keeper Nick Rimando said, "and hopefully it will get something started for us again."

United Note: The club has moved the date of the first leg of its Copa Sudamericana round-of-16 series at RFK from Sept. 15 to Sept. 13. United will probably face Universidad Catolica (Chile), which routed Alianza (Peru), 5-0, in the opener of their two-game series Tuesday.

D.C. United's Christian Gomez does the hard work -- getting the ball past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Jay Nolly -- en route to a goal at RFK Stadium.