Stalemate in D.C.

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

RSL turned in a David Blaine-like performance Saturday night, escaping from the nation’s capital with a 1-1 tie against D.C. United.

D.C. United has been the stingiest home team this season, as they have allowed a mere six points to slip out of RFK stadium. RSL increased that tally to seven by earning a point in the tie.

D.C. United scored the first goal of the match in the waning minutes of the first half on a free kick by young phenom Freddy Adu. Adu took a free kick just outside RSL’s penalty box when he was tripped by RSL midfielder Andy Williams moments before. Adu’s sharply struck shot sailed over the RSL wall and into the upper corner of the Scott Garlick-defended frame.

Jeff Cunningham reheated the already tense situation existing between these two teams, the latest example of which came in July when RSL beat D.C. United on two penalty kicks late in the game. Cunningham was awarded RSL’s only yellow card of the game when he kicked Bryan Namoff near the face.

Three minutes later, RSL tied the game up with the help of that same foot. In the 65th minute, Cunningham beat the D.C. defense and coaxed D.C. keeper Brandon Prideaux out of the goal to defend Cunningham’s attack. Cunningham then assisted the ball onto teammate Chris Klein, who flushed the ball into the back of the Red and Black’s goal.

Although RSL put three shots on goal to D.C. United’s two, RSL was out-shot overall 13-6. Many of those shots were kitty whiskers away from extending or regaining the lead for D.C. United.

RSL can take pride in knowing that it is one of only a handful of teams not to fall to MLS’s best team this year. D.C. United undoubtedly wanted to avenge July’s loss in Salt Lake City but was unable to field its normal squad on Saturday night. Bobby Boswell, Josh Gros and MLS star Christian Gomez were suspended in the match due to their excessive acquisition of previous yellow cards.

Nonetheless, RSL will gladly take any points it can get as the team is still very much in the playoff hunt with only five games remaining in the regular season. Combined with Colorado’s 4-1 loss to Kansas City and Chivas USA’s tie against RSL’s next opponent, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake pulled within two points of Colorado and remained three points behind Chivas for the bottom two playoff spots in the West. L.A. remained a point behind RSL with its (2-1) loss to Houston on Sunday.

The 1-1 tie with D.C. United marks the first tie for RSL on the road this year. The team’s record now stands at a decent 4-8-1 away from Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Cunningham’s assist gives him 10 on the season and moved him into a tie for first place with Terry Cooke of the Colorado Rapids. Cunningham still leads Chivas striker Ante Razov by one for tops in the goal-scoring department, as well. Cunningham’s performance this year makes him one of the front-runners for the league MVP, which will be handed out by the league at the end of the season.

RSL still faces a tough road into the playoffs as all five of its remaining opponents currently own playoff spots. Three of RSL’s final five games will be on the road, starting with a home and away series with the best team in the West, FC Dallas.