United hit wall in draw with Real
WASHINGTON -- Perhaps Real Salt Lake's midfield brought too much energy and inspiration to bear. Maybe Nat Borchers and the rest of the imposing Real back line simply had their attacking weapons figured out. It might just have been a case of tired legs as they labored through their third match in eight days.Whatever the reason, D.C. United definitely hit a wall on Saturday night, playing out a 0-0 standoff with RSL that likely ranks as the most disappointing of their seven draws in 2009. Though their visitors sat deep from the outset, United failed to seize the initiative and a spirited RFK Stadium crowd was given only sporadic scoring opportunities to cheer."We just didn't do it tonight. We weren't taking charge of the game," said United attacker Santino Quaranta, lamenting his team's "very lethargic" display."The draws are disappointing, especially at home. You take them on the road, and that seems to be the theme this year, teams are coming in and trying to get draws on the road. That wasn't a fun game for the fans to watch, I'm sure."Arrayed in a 4-5-1 formation anchored by hulking center backs Borchers and Jamison Olave, Real kept numbers behind the ball for most of the evening but still came within inches of snatching their first road win of the year. D.C. goalkeeper Josh Wicks produced a man-of-the-match performance with eight saves, including a clutch first-half stop on Robbie Findley and an agile parry of Kyle Beckerman's long-range effort in the 73rd minute."Josh kept us in the game. He made probably four or five big saves," said D.C. center back Dejan Jakovic.Not long ago Wicks seemed stuck behind Milos Kocic and Louis Crayton in United's three-man goalkeeping competition. But after winning his first start in nearly a month in Wednesday's 5-3 U.S. Open Cup play-in victory against New York, he staked a strong claim to the No. 1 spot with an assured showing against RSL, securing his team's second clean sheet in league play."It's really great," said Wicks of his confidence-boosting display. "My defense was there to help me out when I couldn't make the save and I was there to help them out when they slacked off. I think as a whole, the backs and the 'keeper, it's great for us to get another shutout and we're going to look forward and move on from that."Yet there was widespread discontentment with United's lackluster efforts in the attacking end. D.C. had scored 10 goals in their previous three contests, but against Real they could only fashion meaningful chances off set pieces. Fred was given a glorious look at goal on one such sequence in the 24th minute, but he blazed wide from three yards out and that miss set the tone for the Black-and-Red strike force."I'm sure he's disappointed, like we all are," said head coach Tom Soehn. "We talked about them bunkering, and making sure that we get that first goal to open them up. We had our chance to do it and unfortunately it didn't go our way."Though they remain close to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, D.C. will hope that their recurring habit of dropping points at RFK does not come back to haunt them down the line. United hit the road for four of their next six matches."I don't think we've come across a team that played that defensive, and we didn't know how to break them down. Our ideas weren't that great and it showed," said Quaranta. "I guess you take the point, but it's not good enough at all."