United, RSL battle to stalemate at RFK

WASHINGTON -- Despite an abundance of attacking play from both sides, D.C. United and Real Salt Lake battled to a 0-0 stalemate at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.The result extends the home side's unbeaten streak to nine games in all competitions, but also runs their number of league draws to a whopping seven out of 11 matches total. Josh Wicks staked his claim to United's up-for-grabs starting goalkeeper spot with eight saves, including several of the dazzling variety, to ensure his team's third clean sheet of the campaign.Much of the pregame chatter centered on the goalkeeping issues facing each team. Despite pregame speculation that his younger counterpart Kyle Reynish would win a first-ever MLS start, RSL netminder and former United star Nick Rimando made an early return from his finger injury to step into the first XI for Jason Kreis' side.For the home team, Wicks earned his second consecutive start in the nets after manning the nets for Wednesday's 5-3 U.S. Open Cup play-in match against New York, while veteran Louis Crayton was left off the gameday roster altogether. Further upfield, Andrew Jacobson got the nod alongside Clyde Simms in the holding midfield spot normally occupied by the hamstrung Ben Olsen.Racing out to reach a bouncing long ball ahead of an onrushing Luciano Emilio in the ninth minute, Rimando ran out of real estate in his own penalty box but bailed himself out with a leaping header at the top of the area.Play soon switched to the other end, where D.C. defender Marc Burch's deflection sent a Robbie Russell cross spinning towards his own net, but Wicks shuffled left to snag the ball comfortably.Christian Gomez created some danger on a United set piece shortly thereafter, whipping a dangerous ball into the RSL goalmouth that nearly found the head of Bryan Namoff. The visitors were then helped by some stout defending from Kyle Beckerman as he slid in bravely to deny the D.C. right back a second look at goal.The Black-and-Red threatened on another free kick, this one caused by Russell's reckless stomp on Emilio. Santino Quaranta flicked Burch's booming far-post delivery on to Namoff, whose chip across the face of goal dropped perfectly for Fred -- but the Brazilian hammered his first-timer wide of the target from close range.Russell had indulged in several crunching challenges and when he clattered into Fred after the D.C. winger's quick touch past him, Gonzalez finally ran out of patience and produced a yellow card for the RSL right back.In the 40th minute Wicks stepped up to make a big save on Real's clearest chance of the half, denying Robbie Findlay after the pacey striker was sent clear in the box by Beckerman's poked through ball.RSL seemed content to sit deep and absorb United's pressure for long stretches, but showed real eagerness on the break as Morales, Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy covered plenty of ground in both directions in the middle of the park. Behind them, Kreis' towering back four were calmly repelling cross after cross and had ably shackled D.C.'s in-form strike force around the 18-yard box.The hosts were marginally better in possession but lacked a cutting edge in the attacking third, struggling to test Rimando as United failed to put a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes.So it was little surprise to see D.C. coach Tom Soehn make a change at the break, adding rookie Chris Pontius in place of a quiet Jaime Moreno. Pontius took up a right wing role, pushing Quaranta into a more advanced role closer to Emilio.For all his hard work along the left, Fred was showing little of his customary smoothness and style on the ball. In the 56th minute he won a promising free kick deep in the left corner with sheer doggedness, however, weathering stout challenges from Russell and Jamison Olave before winning possession back and drawing a foul from Olave. Gomez drove an inswinging cross into the box on the ensuing set piece but Rimando rose well to punch clear.It would be Fred's last contribution of the evening, as Soehn replaced him with Rodney Wallace in the 64th minute.Though he'd enjoyed less of the ball in half two, Morales gave the D.C. defense a sudden reminder of his menace not long after the hour mark when he cut into the box from the left flank and ran at Jacobson before hitting a shot that was blocked over the crossbar.Real's Russell made a stellar defensive play to break up United's quick counterattack in the 73rd minute, slowing down Quaranta before tracking back to intercept his through ball for Wallace to deny the rookie a clear path to goal.Seconds later, Wicks came up aces again with two crucial saves in quick succession. First he sprawled to his right to palm Beckerman's long-range left-footer over the bar, then he got down quickly to block Findley's goalbound header on the subsequent corner kick.The ever-aggressive Movsisyan came close to connecting on what would have been a spectacular strike soon after, taking a pass from Russell at the corner of the D.C .box and cutting back sharply to take aim at the far upper corner of Wicks' goal -- but the bid flew just high and wide.Namoff's probing cross to the far post was headed back towards second-half sub Ange N'Silu in the 82nd minute, but the Congolese striker could not release his shot before being swarmed by a sea of white jerseys.Then it was D.C.'s turn to defend resolutely as Burch, then Jakovic made timely blocks on Morales and Will Johnson, respectively, as the RSL dangermen looked to shoot at the top of the box. Yet Kreis signaled his satisfaction with a road draw when he pulled off Findlay in order to add an extra defender in the form of Chris Wingert.In the final minutes, Wallace met Quaranta's free kick with a clever angled header across the face of goal that flew into touch just a few inches too far ahead of Namoff at the back post. Then in injury time Gomez latched on to another Wallace header inside the RSL six-yard box, but Gonzalez whistled for a foul on the play and the opportunity was lost.Both teams are on the road next weekend, with D.C. United traveling north to face the New England Revolution, while RSL is away from home for a second consecutive match, at San Jose.Real Salt Lake (3-5-2) vs. D.C. United (3-1-7) May 23, 2009 -- RFK Stadium Scoring Summary: Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales (Andy Williams 94+), Will Johnson, Robbie Findley (Chris Wingert 87), Clint Mathis (Yura Movsisyan 61),Substitutes Not Used: Raphael Cox, Fabian Espindola, Tino Nunez, Kyle ReynishD.C. United -- Josh Wicks, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Christian Gomez, Andrew Jacobson, Clyde Simms, Fred (Rodney Wallace 61), Jaime Moreno (Chris Pontius 46), Santino Quaranta, Luciano Emilio (Ange N'Silu 70).Substitutes Not Used: Greg Janicki, Avery John, Milos Kocic, Devon McTavishMisconduct Summary: RSL -- Robbie Russell (caution; Reckless Foul) 37Referee: Jorge GonzalezReferee's Assistants: Bill Dittmar; Jeff Muschik4th official: Mark GeigerTime of game: 1:54Attendance: 16,089Weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 80 degrees