It wasn’t a particularly pretty effort by either side, but Lionard Pajoy’s goal in the 60th minute helped D.C. United pick up its first win of the season and extend their league-best home unbeaten streak to 19 matches in a 1-0 victory against Real Salt Lake at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.
Salt Lake, meanwhile, suffered their first loss of the new campaign and have yet to win a match at RFK in eight tries.
Pajoy scored eight goals last season (three with United, five with Philadelphia) before opening his 2013 account with a diving header.
The goal developed when United’s Chris Pontius sent a corner kick into the box that midfielder John Thorrington settled just outside the area. With space and time, Thorrington sent a cheeky chip on goal that forced RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando to make a leaping, sprawling stop.
The rebound bounced right to Pajoy, who headed it into the open net.
United (1-1-0, 3 points), playing without their captain Dwayne De Rosario while serving the second of his two-game suspension, lacked creativity on offense but continued to play strong defense at home.
RSL (1-1-0, 3 points) looked very little like the team that shutout San Jose last weekend as their chances on the attack were sparse. Salt Lake generated two shots on target and won four corners.
Shortly after Pajoy’s goal, RSL defender Abdoulie Mansally appeared to head butt United’s Perry Kitchen in the chest after some pushing and shoving. Mansally was shown a yellow card by referee Sorin Stoica following the incident.
In the 73rd minute, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a tough stop against RSL midfielder Khari Stevenson that was arguably Salt Lake’s best scoring chance of the evening. Salt Lake won consecutive corners with roughly 15 minutes remaining, but failed to convert on both opportunities.
In the 83rd minute, MLS veteran Carlos Ruiz entered for Pajoy and received a positive ovation from the 17,072 fans in attendance and nearly had a stoppage goal, but Rimando made a fantastic point-blank stop.
The first half was disjointed, to say the least, as both teams failed to do much of anything for the opening 20 minutes and Pontius and Luis Gil notched the only shots on goal for their respective clubs in the opening 45.
United will travel to New York next week for an Atlantic Cup showdown while RSL will play host to Colorado in its home opener.