LANDOVER, Md. -- Playing in front of a mammoth crowd at one of the largest stadiums in the United States, D.C. United put up a valiant fight against Spanish giants Real Madrid on Sunday afternoon, keeping pace with the mighty Galacticos for more than a half before falling to a 3-0 defeat in front of 72,368 soccer fans who clearly enjoyed their glimpse of FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of the most expensively assembled squad in the world.Working hard in draining 95-degree temperatures, the Black-and-Red held their own for long stretches only to be undone by a rapid-fire sequence of classy finishes on either side of the hour mark as Gonzalo Higuain and Arjen Robben ruthlessly exploited several gaps in the D.C. defense to hand Real a confident win.United rolled out a nearly full-strength first XI spearheaded by Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio up top, though hamstring injuries to Bryan Namoff and Santino Quaranta led head coach Tom Soehn to move Dejan Jakovic out to right back, place Greg Janicki at center back and hand Chris Pontius the start on the right wing. Fred roamed the left side as rookie Rodney Wallace was utilized in a central holding role alongside Ben Olsen.As expected, Madrid's starting squad was brimming with superlative talent. Pricey summer signings Kaka and Ronaldo partnered with Higuain in the attack, supported by a midfield of Xabi Alonso, Wesley Sneijder and Esteban Granero.Starting the match on the left wing, Ronaldo ran at Jakovic at every opportunity in the early going and one such menacing jaunt set up Sneijder for a good shooting opportunity, but the Dutchman fired his effort yards over the target.United left back Marc Burch created a moment of danger with a sweeping diagonal ball to the far post in the 10th minute, but Pontius was unable to connect with Christian Gomez and Madrid netminder Iker Casillas was not tested.Four minutes later, a poor clearance from Wallace handed Granero a glorious look at goal at the top of the D.C box, but Josh Wicks scuttled to his left to palm the Spaniard's well-hit bid around the post.Referee Baldomero Toledo stunned Gomez by waving play on after the Argentinean had been chopped down at midfield, leading to a clear chance for Ronaldo inside the United box. But the Portuguese superstar sent his angled shot well wide of the target.Moments later Burch's foray forward was nearly burned after his teammates turned the ball over deep in Real territory, leaving Ronaldo acres of space down the right channel with Wicks exposed. But Burch sprinted back just in time to challenge Ronaldo as he dribbled into the area and Toledo motioned for the former Manchester United star to get up off the turf as he waited for a penalty kick call.Though D.C. struggled to create shooting opportunities, they were holding their own in terms of possession. A patient 36th-minute buildup from the home side led to a quick Moreno-Gomez combination that very nearly sprang the Bolivian legend clear in the Real box, but the Meringues' back line recovered just in time to cut out the pass.The packed crowd rose to its feet when Kaka found left back Royston Drenthe loping down the left touchline and the dreadlocked Dutchman delivered an excellent near-post cross to the noggin of Higuain -- but Wicks was well-positioned again and he awkwardly slapped away the Argentinean's downward header.Real boss Manuel Pellegrini made changes at the break, replacing Ronaldo and Sneijder with Robben and club captain Raul.Yet there was little drop in class, as Burch soon found out when he found himself isolated against Robben in the 53rd minute. The shifty Dutch winger twisted the defender's blood with a quick cutback and directed a right-footer towards the far post, only to be denied by another sharp block from Wicks.But the Madridistas kept probing and eventually Higuain -- who might face a tall task to maintain regular playing time amid his club's epic flock of newcomers -- made the breakthrough on a strong run in the 57th minute. The striker surged past Janicki before stroking a low roller under Wicks' right arm to break the deadlock and provoke celebrations among the white-clad Real supporters in attendance.That tally briefly opened the floodgates as Higuain notched a double in quick succession after a pass from Robben sent him in alone on Wicks. The Argentinean swiveled past the diving D.C. 'keeper and deposited a simple finish into the empty net to run the score to 2-0.The 31-time Spanish champions were looking more comfortable now and they struck yet again in the 69th minute, central defender Pepe finding Robben on another defense-splitting run.This time the former Chelsea man made no mistake with his finish, lofting a cheeky chip over the advancing Milos Kocic, who had just come on in place of Wicks. Kocic raced back to fling the bouncing ball out of the goalmouth but the assistant referee had already signaled for a goal.The game lost some of its rhythm amid a flurry of substitutions on both sides, and while Gomez and United hunted for a response until the very end, they were unable to pierce the Madrid rearguard. It hardly affected the festive mood of the spectators in attendance, though, who waved, cheered and chanted under the blazing sunshine as they soaked in a day of top-class soccer.Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com.