WASHINGTON — Real Salt Lake saw its five-game winning streak snapped in cruel fashion Saturday night, conceding four first-half goals en route to a 4-1 loss against D.C. United.
Unable to cope with D.C. midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who had a hat trick in the first half, RSL lost for the first time since Aug. 20, remaining winless in the nation's capital.
"It's tough," midfielder Ned Grabavoy said after the game. "In the last couple weeks, getting three points and you're on cloud nine and feel like you're flying — got the energy and everything. They scored some great goals."
Resting several starters from Wednesday's 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake held out Jamison Olave, Andy Williams and Robbie Russell from the game-day roster altogether, with reserves Rauwshan McKenzie and Blake Wagner deputizing in defense.
The makeshift back line didn't hold for long, as D.C. took the lead in the 13th minute. De Rosario's through ball split RSL's defense, and right back Wagner, making his first-ever start in MLS, was out run by D.C.'s midfielder Andy Najar, who smashed a shot home past Nick Rimando.
The response after that was all downhill.
"I'm disappointed we reacted the way we did to giving up the first goal," head coach Jason Kreis said after the game, "because I actually thought we started OK and looked very dangerous and were moving the ball pretty nicely."
While doing well in the possession department, RSL couldn't turn any of its time on the ball into offense, and in the 22nd minute D.C. doubled the lead. It was Najar setting up De Rosario this time, as his curled cross beat Borchers and McKenzie at the back, and the midfielder headed it home past Rimando.
Struggling to get back into the game, RSL kept pushing forward, but were again undone by De Rosario. First, in the 27th minute, he curled a shot past Rimando from outside the 18-yard box. Four minutes later, the D.C. attacker had a hat trick, smashing home a free kick from 35 yards out, beating Rimando at the near post.
"He was brilliant," Kreis said of De Rosario. "It's one of those nights where you give a player like that a yard and he is going to punish you."
Down 4-0, RSL fashioned its best moments of the game near the end of the first half. Forward Paulo Araujo, Jr. forced a save from D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid in the 40th minute, before Arturo Alvarez headed a Ned Grabavoy cross just wide of the far post a few minutes later.
Looking to improve and at least get something out of the second half, Kreis made a double change in the 62nd minute, adding Will Johnson and Luis Gil to the fold to try and instigate the comeback. A minute later, Collen Warner had a shot on goal saved by Hamid after a nice pass from Kyle Beckerman into space.
A goal finally game, but too little too late, as substitute forward Alvaro Saborio got on the score sheet for Salt Lake in the 86th minute. Araujo's chip in behind United's defense found Saborio, who beat the offside trap, and he hammered a shot past Hamid and into the back of the net.
It pleased Kreis to see his team at least respond and improve in the second half.
"The one thing I can say is that we came out and did better and won the half, which as a manager that's all I can ask for at halftime — can we get something out of this, can we show a positive response to this?"
RSL won't have long to wait to get back out on the field, as it returns Wednesday night back at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Chicago Fire and will be raring and ready to go.
"I think you'll see the starting group come out Wednesday night with the foot on the gas, full throttle going at things," Grabavoy said.