WASHINGTON – Hit with a growing injury list and a short week of rest, Real Salt Lake knew the going would be tough on Saturday night in a venue where the defending MLS Cup champs have never won. And RSL's winless skid at RFK Stadium continued on Saturday as they battled D.C. United to a 0-0 draw, which also ended a five-game winning streak.
The match concluded a week-long stay in the nation’s capital, a stretch that included a U.S. Open Cup play-in match, a humanitarian endeavor with Nothing But Nets, and a visit with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House.
At the end of it all, a point was an acceptable result – particularly the shutout that came with it.
“I think [the result] feels like what it was – which was a draw. But a well earned, hard fought for draw,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said. “Probably the most important thing that comes out of that for us is a shutout, because we’ve been stressing it for every match for the past four or five games.”
The result came on a humid and muggy night in DC, with a kickoff temperature hovering around 90 degrees. RSL managed to hang on to a point at the final whistle, despite being forced to suit up and start a number of players who had gone extended minutes during the extra time Open Cup loss on Wednesday.
With Kyle Beckerman, Chris Wingert and Nelson Gonzalez all missing through injury, and Robbie Findley in South Africa with the US National Team, players like Will Johnson, Nat Borchers, Robbie Russell and Tony Beltran were once again back in the starting lineup after going 120 minutes on Wednesday in a 2-1 loss in the U.S. Open Cup play-in game.
Perhaps the biggest factor, however, was the humidity, hanging over the match from the very start, reducing action to a sluggish, back-and-forth affair over 90 minutes. The weather was a sharp contrast to what Salt Lake City has to offer and the elements tested RSL for the first time this season.
“We come from a very dry place that has had a very, very cool spring,” Kreis said. “This is the first time we’ve been in the humidity and the first time we’ve been in any kind of heat. I know it’s a transition, it takes time.”
The heat on the field took its toll as the game played out and both sides struggled to properly adjust to the conditions. Play would sometimes stall in the midfield and players would take advantage of stoppages to hydrate.
“This humidity definitely takes a toll on you no matter how much you prepare, and it showed a little bit in our game,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “But again, we fought through it, and somehow figured out to get a point.”
The freshness of Rimando and defender Jamison Olave – both rested in midweek – helped keep D.C. United off the score sheet, a confidence builder ahead of Wednesday night’s marquee matchup against league-leading Los Angeles.
“We needed a shutout,” Rimando said. “Our defense is playing well this whole season, and we’ve still been giving up that late goal, and today we got zero. It feels good.”
While the shutout may have satisfied some, midfielder Will Johnson still thought three points were there for the taking.
“It’s been a tough couple days,” Johnson said. “Playing 120 [minutes], all the shenanigans at the White House, being on our feet all day yesterday. There’s no doubt that I think we weren’t quite as sharp breaking them down. I’m not disappointed, not overly excited.”