Enduring a frustrating evening in a tough away venue, not much had gone D.C. United’s way for most of their 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Chris Pontius had a goal correctly called back because Josh Wolff was offside when he flicked it to the midfielder in the first half. RSL won a PK in the 38th minute when a cross glanced off Clyde Simms’ trailing arm in the penalty area, and Pontius went on to hit the bar on two separate occasions.
So when Charlie Davies went down in the box in the 83rd minute with RSL defender Chris Wingert’s sliding challenge, seeing Terry Vaughn point to the spot was a reversal of fortune and gave Davies an opportunity to snatch a point in the last five minutes of the game.
Davies converted the PK, and United held off Salt Lake in the dying stages of the game to come away with a valuable road point.
“It’s great for us to come here and get a point and get a result,” Davies told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “Hats off to us for battling back.”
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Head coach Ben Olsen thought they were a bit lucky to come away with the point.
“I thought that on the day [Real Salt Lake] were probably a better soccer team than we were, but we found a way,” he said after the game. “It’s a tough place to come and sneak out a result.”
Knowing that a strong start and scoring first would be crucial against an RSL team that likes to keep and possess the ball on their home turf, DC started off well, dominating possession within the first 15 minutes of the game.
After coming out with a high energy level, however, United couldn’t get that first goal, and momentum swung towards the home side. They started to threaten Bill Hamid’s goal, and he made a couple of saves to keep the score tied at 0-0 before Simms was whistled for a handball in the box in the 38th minute.
Down a goal against a team built on a possession game, DC couldn’t crack Salt Lake’s rigid back line. Olsen sent in Davies in the 62nd minute in an attempt to get a goal.
“Whenever you come off the bench, you’re supposed to add something to the game, especially me,” Davies said. “My job is to come in and change the game for this team. The game was pretty flat and they needed someone who could stretch the defense and change the game and bring that energy on.”
Like he has in previous substitute appearances, Davies was able to provide that spark, earning the penalty with seven minutes to go.
But that was only half the battle — Davies still had to beat RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando, known as one of the best penalty-stoppers in the league. He blocked that out, took his shot with confidence to the low left corner of the goal.
“When you’re at the penalty spot, no matter who you’re shooting against, you have to think you’re going to score,” Davies said, “otherwise, that’s when you get those doubts in your head that maybe there’s a chance that [the ‘keeper will] make the save.”