Real Salt Lake recorded an eighth win on the road by besting D.C. United 1-2 at Audi Field.

One of only six matches played this matchday due to the international window, both sides were missing some key talent. For the Black-and-Red, Taxi Fountas and Victor Pálsson were unavailable, while RSL was missing four players, Rubio Rubin, Anderson Julio, Jefferson Savarino, and Braian Ojeda.

Black-and-Red goalkeeper Tyler Miller began the match flitting around the box, blocking shots at super speed. Real Salt Lake kept up the pressure, forcing D.C. United to work hard in defense. With Miller out the net and playing forward, a dedicated Steve Birnbaum was caught out in the 26′ and booked with a red for his challenge of Danny Musovski, bringing the Black-and-Red down to ten men.

While D.C. United would manage to hold off RSL a bit longer, a 41′ rocket from Pablo Ruiz would open the scoring. Ruiz fired his shot from Real Salt Lake’s half and easily tucked the ball in the upper right-hand corner of the net, just out of Miller’s reach. We won’t be surprised if this shot makes Goal of the Year.

With the visitors up at halftime, the pressure was on D.C. United to find an answer in short turn.

Danny Musovski made good on his promising form, scoring at close range off a cross from Andrés Gómez to double Real Salt Lake’s lead in the 51′.

Chris Durkin had the answer for the Black-and-Red, slotting a passback from Ruan through traffic to find the back of RSL’s net in the 53′.

Although Wayne Rooney was in agreement with the decision made to book Birnbaum, he was in disbelief over a missed call for a penalty later in the match. He said, “I asked the referee at the end of the game, why didn’t you overturn it? He said he didn’t think it was a penalty. I said, ‘Have you seen it back?’ He said, ‘No.’ So the referee made a mistake by not giving it, and VAR have made a mistake by not telling him to check it…Because that’s not good enough. If this league wants to grow, wants to improve, they have to improve with the officials as well.”

Despite D.C.’s best efforts to make a comeback against Salt Lake, they were unable to overcome the visitors with ten men and a missed call for a penalty.

D.C. United remains at home to face FC Cincinnati – currently the best team in MLS – on June 24 at 7:30 pm ET.

Three Takeaways

  • Goal of the Year contender. We quite possibly witnessed the MLS Goal of the Year with Pablo Ruiz’s rocket from his own half. The 50+ yard strike that caught out Tyler Miller was sheer perfection. Now we just wish it had been in D.C. United’s favor.
  • Well, hello, Moses Nyeman. Nyman entered the match in the 75′ for Jasper Loffelsend. The D.C. United homegrown had come up through the academy and played on the first team before his transfer to Belgian second division side SK Beveren. Nyeman was acquired by RSL on loan from the Belgian club.
  • Birnbaum out for Cincinnati match. Owing to tonight’s red card, captain Steve Birnbaum will miss next week’s match against FC Cincinnati.

Watch the highlights from D.C. United vs. Real Salt Lake

Box Score

MLS Regular Season – Game 19

D.C. United: 1 Durkin 53′

Real Salt Lake: 2 Ruiz 41′, Musovski 51′


D.C. United: Tyler Miller, Derrick Williams, Steven Birnbaum, Brendan Hines-Ike, Chris Durkin (Donovan Pines 90’+3′), Russell Canouse (Ruan 46′), Lewi’s O’Brien, Mateusz Klich (Erik Hurtado 46′), Gaoussou Samaké (Andy Najar 60′), Cristian Dájome (Kristian Fletcher 84′), Christian Benteke

Real Salt Lake: Zac MacMath, Andrew Brody, Brayan Vera, Justen Glad, Emeka Eneli, Pablo Ruiz, Carlos Gomez (Bode Hidalgo 63′), Diego Luna (Maikel Chang 63′), Jasper Loffelsend (Moses Nyeman 75′), Damir Kreilach, Danny Musovski (Paul Illijah 85′)

Misconduct Summary

D.C. United: Birnbaum 26′ (Red, Professional Foul Last Man), Durkin 50′, Dájome 75′, Hines-Ike 89′

Real Salt Lake: Ruiz 9′, MacMath 90 + 1′

Featured image courtesy of D.C. United // Hannah Wagner

BySarah Kallassy

Managing Editor

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Rusk

I am not discouraged by this loss (though DCU has to stop dropping points at Buzzard Point to make the playoffs).

DCU played 77 minutes with a man down, never gave up the fight, and never stopped pushing forward to score (18 shots).

And after Durkin’s goal, the crowd really got back into it.

We were beaten by a 1 in a 100 60 yard goal and an incomprehensible non-call on the penalty on Fletcher (not even a VAR review???!!!).

We’re still eighth in the East. Let’s pick up three points against Cincinnati next Saturday.

Matt Glad

As much as MLS refs stop the game for head-scratching VAR checks (ATL’s third goal last week). BAR not looking at that pk is embarrassing. No wonder Wayne thinks the refs have it out for DC.

Bryan McEachern

USL ref

Ryan Hunt

The loss is frustrating because of how solidly we outplayed RSL for large stretches even when down a man. I hope pulling Canouse and Klich at halftime was purely precautionary because we can’t afford to have more players missing time.

Getting Ruan back will help the team a lot. He’s by no means a perfect player but his speed helps stretch the field and he’s good enough defensively. Najar looked a bit out of it on his cameo so I worry that he was rushed back but we’ll see.

Lastly, give Fletcher some more minutes. He was terrorizing that defense and needs to get a shot at building chemistry with Benteke.

David Rusk

Amen to all these comments.


Kudos to the team for keeping up the intensity after the red card (which was legitimate). I commented during the game to my wife that the referee did not look up to the level of MLS only to learn afterward that he is a USL referee with only 4 MLS games under his belt. The PK was an obvious one to call with a RSL player pulling back on Fletcher’s shoulder. It is a clear-cut penalty.

O’Brien still is frustrating me with all of his giveaways at midfield. One led to a RSL goal as he tried to dribble past 2 players with the sideline hemming him in. He had several others that did not lead to a goal for RSL. Then he makes a brilliant play leading up to the DCU goal. If he goes or stays it is okay with me. But right now he is a mixed bag.

Matt Glad

His quality has certainly dipped recently. Same could be said for the whole squad, though.

Talonesque #

It’s hard to really delve too much into this game, because it as just full of things that rarely happen, and can’t be expected as the norm. Birnbaum instinctively tugging a player a little before registering the full scenario, and therefore earning a red for what was barely a foul, weird situation. A player pinging a shot into the upper corner from half field, strange situation. Durkin scoring, ditto. VAR deciding that this ref is too alone in making bad decisions, unfortunate but probably not going to happen all the time.

I think we get a win in this one if played under normal circumstances with more statistically likely happenings.

Basically, don’t want to engage with it any more than that. Need to start getting results again, and that’s pretty much it.

Talonesque #

Anyway, if you have a free evening and access to Paramount+, US clashes with Canada tonight at 8:30 today. Should be spicy, though hopefully not as toxic as the Mexico game ended up becoming.

Michael Carter

Should be a fun match and much more challenging one. Mexico are a hot mess right now and still play what I’d call arrogant football. More concerned with playing the game as if they are the clear cut best side in CONCACAF when right now they are anything but that. To be fair, I wouldn’t expect this to last long, and CONCACAF w/o Mexico at or near their best is worse for everyone.

Canada on the other hand are a talented and capable technical side that could (almost) go toe to toe with this USMNT in possession. However, I think they know better, and will likely look to (1) frustrate the US being compact and organized defensively, (2) beat the US at the physical side of the game (which they are plenty capable of), and (3) look to exploit the US on the counter.

Makes for a much more interesting tactical game and hopefully more competitive match than the last.

Bryan McEachern

Who’s the man in the mirror?

Mexico is purely arrogant. Always have been. Always will be.

Totally a second rate dumpster fire. I was jolly well pleased to watch them get totally dispatched in humiliating fashion.

Will Nelson

In regards to the potential Fletcher PK, I think what weighed heavily was the angle to goal and the fact that it appeared that Fletcher was headed for the endline. Is it a foul in the box and a pk in my opinion probably yes. And remember even if VAR thinks it needs to be reviewed going to review is still up to the ref.

Ryan Hunt

I get what you’re saying, but it’s all about consistency. He was calling soft fouls most of the night so I think if he had another look then he would have pointed to the spot. In my opinion, he seemed to be looking at the linesman and basing his call of their reaction. VAR should have told him that it was worth another look since he had relatively little experience at this level. Maybe they did and he ignored them, but it seemed too short a delay before the goal kick for that to have happened.

Overall, VARs job should be to help the referee but I can’t help wondering if less experienced refs prefer to double down on their decisions. I’ve never done more than be a linesman so I could be wrong. I’m just basing my experiences in the workforce when a third party is brought in to “help” find mistakes and you get pushback from people less secure in their positions.


The direction doesn’t matter for a PK (but it does for DOGSO). A foul in the penalty area is a PK as long as the ball is in play. Besides, he was going to cross the ball from a dangerous point and he was prevented from doing that. The hand was on the should and pulled him back. It is 100% a PK. If it was a shoulder tackle or minor contact (for instance hand on shoulder without pulling back), then the referee can ignore it.

But it wasn’t called for whatever reason either by the ref or the VAR. It’s too bad because for the PK the stadium would have been rocking.


[…] of D.C. United’s 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake by us, WaPo and […]


Can someone explain Birbaum’s red card to me, please? Aren’t those type of challenges automatic yellows but not reds? There was no hint of violence, malice or recklessness in what Steve did. Just saw the second half of the France-Greece game where a Greek defender pushed the French attacker to the ground outside the box, ref gave the Greek player a straight red but then VAR took a look and reversed the card to a yellow. Granted the player was still kicked out of the game because that was his second yellow of the game but still VAR reviewed the refs decision and over ruled him. Fifa needs to be more consistent in how they enforce their rules, if those types of fouls are supposed to be red, then they should always be called red.

Ryan Hunt

It was a red because the ref thought it was a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO). Now, I personally think that Miller was going to get to the ball first and so VAR should have advised the ref to take a look at it but that gets called as a red in most games.


Well, in yesterday’s game, the French player was right in front of goal outside the box with the last defender trailing him, so had the defender not pushed him from behind, the attacker would have had a clear one-on-one against the keeper. VAR still looked at it and said the defender deserved a yellow and not the red that was given by the ref. My annoyance with it all is that they clearly have one rule but everyone interprets and implements it differently. France’s chance at goal was 100% more clear than RSL’s on Saturday.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x