WASHINGTON – There’s little doubt that of all the efforts delivered by D.C. United’s players in the club’s 1-0 victory against Real Salt Lake at RFK Stadium on Saturday, Lionard Pajoy generated the most reaction from the fans.
And that’s not just because he scored the team’s lone goal in the 60th minute.
Pajoy also found himself with a handful of missed opportunities with the ball at his feet that solicited groans and arms thrown skyward from various spectators. A missed touch here, an extra second of indecision there. But regardless of what he was unable to do, United had nothing but praise for their 31-year-old forward following the match that extended D.C.’s home unbeaten streak to 19 games.
“He scored a goal tonight,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “The one that won the game. So you’re not going to get any knocks on Pajoy right now from me.”
Olsen has lauded his Colombian forward’s work rate and ability to defend well out of the No. 9 position since United acquired him from Philadelphia last season. And despite a few head-scratching moments, Pajoy ultimately was the difference-maker in a disjointed contest.
“[It was] one of those plays where as a forward you’re always aware at what might come out of it,” Pajoy said through a translator. “I happened to be at the right place at the right time and was able to make it happen.”
It was Pajoy’s fourth regular season goal for United in 14 matches.
“I think everyone on this team likes playing with him,” Chris Pontius said of Pajoy. “Everyone tends to say he’s not the greatest finisher, but the work he puts on off the ball is phenomenal for us and that’s what we need going forward.”
In the preseason, Pajoy scored four goals in three matches and drew further praise from Olsen regarding the improvement of his finishing touch. His goal against RSL was a diving header on a rebound off the hands of Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando. United midfielder John Thorrington sent a high chip on target that forced Rimando to make the initial stop before Pajoy deposited the rebound.
“He works his tail off for the team,” Thorrington said. “Most strikers are only judged on how many goals they score, but for me he does so much more than just that. I’m really glad he was rewarded with the goal and the team effort was rewarded with a win.”