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Real Salt Lake struggles in bizarre 6-4 loss to D.C. United

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake spent 90 minutes scoring goals or picking the ball out of the net in one of the strangest results in Real Salt Lake history — a 6-4 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium.

The match started in spectacular fashion for the visitors, with Joao Plata scoring inside the first minute. Devon Sandoval controlled the ball well in the box and laying the ball off to Sebastian Jaime, who played the ball for Plata just outside the box. A simple shot beat out D.C. goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, and RSL led 1-0 with 89 minutes to go.

It took 20 minutes for the next goal to come, with the pace set to pick up later in the match. Kyle Beckerman fired a shot from distance that pinged off one post and beat the goalkeeper for his first goal of the year.

Another 20 minutes went by before D.C. clawed one back, with RSL's defensive plans being laid to waste when Tony Beltran, rather than putting the ball out for a corner, lost the ball to Chris Rolfe in the box. Rolfe fired home, giving United the 2-1 lifeline they needed.

It wasn't until the second half that the match truly started to turn batty. Defending a corner, Devon Sandoval hovered his hands somewhere near Bobby Boswell, who proceeded to dive — or, if you don't like that word, simulate contact — and "win" a penalty for the opposition. The call? "Shirt pulling," but video shows nothing of the sort — and if there was any, then certainly none that referee Baldomero Toledo could have seen.

Chris Rolfe placed the penalty perfectly, leveling the match at 2-2.

The controversy didn't end there. A minute later — literally — Olmes Garcia was barged over in the box (a much more clear-cut call, by any stretch of the imagination) and Toledo simply waved the match on.

From there, RSL looked rattled. D.C. broke down the left side and a series of ill-timed clearances and missed opportunities gave Taylor Kemp an opportunity to send a perfectly placed shot past Jeff Attinella, giving D.C. the 3-2 lead.

Three minutes after that, Aaron Maund sent an equalizing header home, beating his mark and finishing off Javier Morales's well-placed cross. 3-3, but the scoring was far from over.

Only just after Maund scored, former RSL men Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola combined to give the latter a game-leading goal. Saborio fired a shot directly at Jeff Attinella, who pawed it away from goal, and Abdoulie Mansally whiffed on a clearance — success on that would have kept the match at level pegging, but instead, the ball trickled toward the goal, and Justen Glad, in a desperate swing at the ball, hit it against Fabian Espindola's foot. For his undoubtedly lucky part in the goal, Espindola celebrated with reckless abandon. Good for him.

Abdoulie Mansally levelled the match with a wonderful goal in the 68th minute, bursting down the left side, beating Nick DeLeon, and firing a shot over the goalkeeper from close range.

Perry Kitchen scored the game-winning goal for D.C., putting the team ahead 5-4 with a well-placed header, with a cross sent in essentially unprotected, and it looked more or less like every RSL player lost their mark, including those who weren't playing.

The death knells were sounded when DeLeon scored a brilliant goal from distance, and somehow, the last goal is the best of the bunch. Maybe Luis Gil could have closed him down a little better, but shots of that quality beat the best goalkeepers in the world.