While D.C. United’s performance may not have been their best shift on the road to date, there were still some positives to take from Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake.
A young defense responded after a lackluster performance the weekend before, conceding four goals on home turf to San Jose, with RSL only scoring on a first half penalty kick. Chris Pontius was lively again on the left wing, threatening the opposing defense with storming runs, only denied a goal by and offside flag and striking the woodwork on two separate occasions.
But one of the most significant developments was right back Jed Zayner coming through 90 minutes unscathed for the first time in 2011.
“To get out of this game was huge,” Zayner told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. “I felt great, didn’t even notice my hamstring ‘til my calf started cramping. I’m so happy to have 90 minutes under my belt.”
The veteran defender’s last attempt at a comeback from a nagging hamstring injury was cut short when he re-aggravated the ailment against Houston back at the end of April.
And he made it through Saturday’s game despite taking a couple of hard shots during the match, including a studs-up challenge on his ankle from Real Salt Lake forward Jean Alexandre that wasn’t called.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Zayner didn’t notice any immediate problems caused by some of the physical confrontations.
“I’m feeling real good, super excited to have that 90 minutes down, just need to get cleaner with my feet,” he said.
Zayner's health is crucial to DC’s back line, providing a veteran presence to complement the rookie center-back duo of Ethan White and Perry Kitchen, who will remain as starters as long as Dejan Jakovic is out with a hamstring injury.
“Our young guys [are] learning that while we’re not playing bad as a team, that we play even harder defensively, that we do whatever it takes to get at least a tie out of [the] game,” he said. “That’s important, we come to the locker room, yeah, we’re kind of mad that we didn’t play better, but we’re proud that in a game where you come in and got some character out of it.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.