WASHINGTON - A struggling Real Salt Lake side proved the perfect remedy to end D.C. United's recent skid on Wednesday, as the Black-and-Red put a heartbreaking week behind them with a comprehensive 5-1 drubbing at RFK Stadium.
Having blown leads in last week's gutting losses to New England and Dallas, United got on the board early again, jumping out to a 2-0 first-half lead on a Jaime Moreno penalty kick and a long-range drive by Freddy Adu.
However, a rough patch just after halftime evoked visions of their recent collapses, as United missed a number of clear chances to fortify their advantage and allowed Melvin Tarley to give his new side hope with his first-ever MLS goal in the 51st minute.
"We had enough chances to win the game, for sure," said D.C. coach Peter Nowak. "But I wasn't happy - again - with how we started the second half. We had a couple of chances to put this game away, and then we give up the goal, which Real made really difficult for us."
But the defending champions recovered, paced by the dependable combination of Moreno and Christian Gomez, and kicked it into a higher gear to leave Real in their wake.
"We knew we were due to explode and have a lot of goals in one of these games sometime soon," said Adu. "We have a lot of chances, we just don't finish them. We've been working a lot on finishing, actually, after practice, and it paid off."
The overall performance of D.C.'s back line also went a long way towards burying the memory of last week's ill-timed mistakes.
"Salt Lake, to their credit, they kind of cheated a lot," said midfielder Clyde Simms. "Some of the guys didn't defend as much and when they got the ball, they had a bunch of numbers forward. Normally I don't think that would happen with other teams in the league, but (our back line) handled it well tonight."
Veteran defender Brandon Prideaux praised center back Bobby Boswell's effort as the rookie bounced back from a costly own goal against the Revolution.
"It happens all the time - it's the nature of our position that it gets magnified if you make a mistake in the back," said Prideaux. "He's really done a good job and played with confidence. He just did the same thing tonight that he's done all year."
The 16-year-old Adu, who earned his full driver's license earlier in the day, made his first start since Aug. 6 and looked confident and aggressive alongside Moreno.
"Going into the game, we said we were going to try to score a lot of goals," he said. "I've been coached by different people, and all my coaches said, if we can beat a team 10-1, go ahead and do it. Don't play down to anybody's standards. I'm not saying that Real Salt Lake is a bad team, but I feel like D.C. United is the team to beat in the league when we play our best."
United now look to regenerate further momentum before the postseason when they travel to the rarified air of Denver to take on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
"At the end of the day, we got the three points and that's a step in the right direction," said Nowak. "With our mentality and approach tonight, I expect in the next couple of weeks that it's going to be the same way, how we play and how we approach the game."
Said Simms: "With seven games left in the season, we definitely want to get one more little winning streak here, and tonight's a good start for it."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.