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Pajoy strike enough for D.C. United to topple RSL

Pajoy (Getty)


WASHINGTON — Ben Olsen knows all too well the skepticism surrounding Lionard Pajoy. The man seems to do everything but finish. Admire the work ethic. Praise his awareness. Worry about the missed chances.

But on this night, Pajoy buried one. And to Olsen, that’s all that mattered.

“He scored a goal,” the D.C. United coach deadpanned before smirking. “The one that won the game. So you’re not going to get any knocks on Pajoy from me.”

With the 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake (1-1-0), United (1-1-0) followed the same formula that found them success in last season’s playoffs: Play smart in the back, clog the midfield and grind out a result. Although Pajoy was far from flawless with his execution in the final third, he keyed United’s workmanlike performance while still managing to nod home a rebound in the 60th minute.

“I think everyone on this team likes playing with him,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “Everyone tends to say he’s not the greatest finisher, but the work he puts in off the ball I think is phenomenal for us, and that’s what we need from a forward.”

The focus on Pajoy was heightened with United captain Dwayne De Rosario wrapping a two-game suspension for head-butting Philadelphia’s Danny Cruz during a preseason match. While United dropped a 2-0 result to open the campaign last week in Houston, Saturday’s win in front of 17,072 at RFK Stadium gave them a respectable split in the 2011 MLS MVP’s absence.

As Olsen put it, “We were probably looking for four points out of this first two, knowing Houston’s a tough one. So a win tonight at home is big.”

Early on, both teams’ early-season rust was readily apparent. The only life in the first half stemmed from an exchange of chances midway through the stanza, with United goalkeeper Bill Hamid tipping away a Robbie Findley cross moments before Salt Lake counterpart Nick Rimando pushed aside a Pontius blast.

But United got the goal they needed after the break when John Thorrington’s chip forced a lunging save out of Rimando and Pajoy was on the doorstep to clean up.

“It was one of those plays where as a forward, you’re always aware of what might come out of it,” Pajoy said via a translator. “And I happened to be at the right place at the right time.”

Added Thorrington: “Anytime you score a goal, I’d say you’re in the perfect place. I was happy for him. He works his tail off for the team. Most strikers are only judged on how many goals they score. For me, he does so much more than just that.”

Despite missing starters Nat Borchers (quad), Chris Wingert (knee), Ned Grabavoy (family matter) and Javier Morales (knee), Salt Lake won the possession battle. But searching late, the visitors failed to mount any threats more dangerous than Khari Stephenson’s shot right at Hamid and Lovel Palmer’s long-range effort that missed the near post.

“You’ve got a diamond midfield that pinches in, so sometimes it looks like they dominate possession, but none of it was really penetrating, so that was good on our part,” United right back James Riley said. “We definitely showed some resiliency to bunker in and deal with things.”

From Pajoy up top through the midfield and back line, United won tackles and closed gaps — the type of win-ugly effort the team has delivered with increasing frequency as the 35-year-old Olsen has latched on to his coaching identity.

“It was a sound performance,” Hamid said, “from the back to the front.”


  1. Not a whole lot of takeaways from this game other than pretty good to get a solid win against a good team w/o dero. The defense looked good.. Esp jako. I suspect dc to show its true colors next week in NY.

  2. was at the game, so my vantage point wasn’t the greatest, but, even though it ended 1-0, it didn’t feel like the ‘win-ugly’ games from last season. i’m assuming rsl ended up with better possession stats due to dcu bunkering in the end, but from about the 15th min til the 75th, it felt like dcu was taking it to rsl, instead of the other way around. think the first half stats for shots (on goal) were dcu – 5(1), rsl – 1(0), which reinforces my point.

    • also, a note on pajoy: he’s one of the most frustrating players i’ve watched. by halftime, the fans were yelling at him, because the only thing he added to the game was running around–he has a terrible first touch, he’s not that fast, he kills our fast breaks, he takes too long to get off a shot, and he mouths off to the ref.

      anyway, then he goes and scores the game-winning goal. the guy in front of me turned around and said, ‘pajoy should just run past the stands, flicking everyone off.’ that would have just made his performance perfect.

      • Yeah, Pajoy was crap for the whole game (RSL fan here btw) actually was joking the only thing he was going to do at half time was to be sent off.

        Then he scores a goal. Meh’ not entirely deserved. Would have thought Pontius was going to score, as to be honest he was the only guy who looked like doing much against RSLs defense.

        Also congrats on the win. One of these days were going to beat you. D:< Just wait until you come back to the RioT, and we'll give you some payback.

      • Watching from a zoomed in camera on TV, it seemed to me Pajoy was wearing the defense down. Hard working on both sides, and making his presence very known. i like that, and his physicality.

      • He forced a lot of hurried passes out of the final third totally got into defenders’ heads by the end. It was tough for rsl to build out of the back. He also gave the ball away an awful lot. There’s your tradeoff

      • “he’s one of the most frustrating players i’ve watched.”


        i’m struggling to force myself to a home game…i just cant right now

        i went again and again last year and its indescribable how frustrating it is to sit through missed chances, complete lack of spatial awareness that leads to being caught offsides, and squandering opportunities to dish to his mates when they make runs

        he might be a decent sub but never in a million years is he a professional starter

    • yeah, i agree. it was tough defense first and hard stretch offense when we got the ball, but just because we play hard d didn’t make it “ugly.” we controlled both sides of the game i thought.


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