David Ochoa returned to his old stomping grounds in Sandy, Utah logging his second consecutive clean sheet of the season. While the scoreline remained 0-0, Ochoa logged a busy 90' for the Black-and-Red. The goalkeeper recorded a bevy of saves, coming up big for D.C. United in critical moments.
Notably, the spotlight was on D.C. United youth as the Black-and-Red split points at Rio Tinto Stadium. Matai Akinmboni made his debut, while Jackson Hopkins returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the fiasco of a game against the Philadelphia Union in August.
Once again, the 0-0 scoreline doesn't tell the tale of the work the Black-and-Red put in to maintain a clean sheet, nor does it reflect the dangerous opportunities they created.
Ola Kamara and Christian Benteke created a flurry of chances from the moment the whistle blew, with Benteke just missing his shot in the 1', the ball going wide to the right.
By the 17', Kamara was finally able to put Zac MacMath to the test. Kamara capitalized on a cross by Chris Durkin, but MacMath saved his left-footed shot, denying him, and D.C. United, some early security.
Ochoa was hard at work throughout the first half, saving shots from Salt Lake's Pablo Ruiz, Justin Meram, Marcelo Silva, and Sergio Códova. Of Ochoa's performance, center back Donovan Pines said, "He gives a different perspective and just a very good calming effect in the back, so I feel like you know, with his presence and his presence of mind of saving and just being very good and calm on the ball, it just brings a lot more just comfort for us on the field."
The second half would bring more of the same, with Salt Lake's attack testing D.C.'s mettle, but there were shining moments where the Black-and-Red were undoubtedly the better team on the pitch. A formation change-up at the half - switching to a diamond formation - seemed to trouble Real Salt Lake enough to throw them off their stride.
Rooney was pleased with his team's performance saying, "We knew this, and it's a tough game and the altitude. I spoke to the players after the game, and they found it difficult to breathe at times. So we knew it was always gonna be a tough place to come in and get a win. And so to come in and pick up a point against a good team in difficult circumstances, for us was was very pleasing."
D.C. United will take on Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday, September 13 at 8:30 pm ET.
- On the decision to play Matai Akinmboni. Head coach Wayne Rooney discussed the late decision to play Akinmboni on the backline saying, "I wanted a bit more security in terms of going with a back three, which I very rarely do go with a back three, but I just felt having a bit more security with an extra body back there was important for us, especially during the first half."
- A strong mentality. It's no secret that D.C. Untied has been through the wringer this season. But, center back Donovan Pines said, "We're all fighting, and we all want to prove a point that you know, we're a good team defensively, and you know, offensively. So you know, first it starts with the defense and keeping, you know, the goals out of the net and just staying positive in terms of, you know, grief and turmoil and just staying positive all the time. So I feel like once we got over that hump, I think we're doing really well right now, and I think we're, you know, looking forward to, you know, this later part of the season and just finishing off on a better note and going forward for next season."
- "I've got your back." Donovan Pines talked about what it means to mentor some of the youngest players in the league and how he goes about supporting them. He said, "I just talk to them and say, you know, just have fun, and I always got your back. Do your thing, and I'll play a game defensively, and you showcase your skills because, you know, at the end of the day, I want these guys to strive and prosper and, you know, go for their best effort, you know, in this league. So, I just want them to get as much confidence as possible going forward and hopefully do well and take it."
Watch the highlights from Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United
MLS Regular Season - Game 30
Real Salt Lake: 0
D.C. United: 0
Real Salt Lake: Zac MacMath, Andrew Brody, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Marcelo Silva, Pablo Ruiz, Justin Meram (Danny Musovski 77'), Maikel Chang (Anderson Julio 68'), Jasper Loffelsend (Braian Ojeda 68'), Sergio Cordova (Rubio Rubin 68'), Jefferson Savarino
D.C. United: David Ochoa, Andy Nájar, Donovan Pines, Matai Akinmboni (Tony Alfaro 46’), Russell Canouse (Martín Rodríguez 59’), Chris Durkin (Sofiane Djeffal 59’), Jackson Hopkins (Chris Odoi-Atsem 46’), Victor Pálsson, Ravel Morrison, Ola Kamara (Miguel Berry 77’), Christian Benteke
Real Salt Lake: Silva 66’, Herrera 89’
D.C. United: Durkin 27', Akinmboni 40', Ochoa 61'