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Real Salt Lake holds off D.C. United as Nick Rimando earns win No. 200

SANDY — Nick Rimando downplayed his pursuit of win No. 200 earlier this week.

After back-to-back road losses the past two weeks for Real Salt Lake, Rimando said his only focus against visiting D.C. United this weekend was three points.

RSL didn’t get off to the start it wanted on Saturday night against the last-place team from the Eastern Conference — and things even got a little scary late against 10-man D.C. United — but it eventually held on for the 3-2 victory as Rimando earned his milestone 200th victory in front of the home fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“It’s special for sure. I’ve got to give not just myself credit, but all the teammates that I’ve played with credit. I don’t win games by myself. Those guys out there today fought hard for me,” said Rimando. “To play this many years and to get to 200 is special.”

RSL got goals from Corey Baird, Albert Rusnak and Jefferson Savarino to secure its fourth straight home victory, which helped it vault back into fifth place in the West.

Rimando became the all-time wins leader in MLS back in 2016 when he won his 181st game, and, now that he’s reached 200 wins, it’s a record he won’t relinquish anytime soon. Seattle’s Stefan Frei is the only other active player in the top 10 in wins in MLS, and he’s well behind with just 83 wins.

“To be a part of it with him, all the hard work that’s he’s put in, he really deserves it. He’s the best. Every time he plays, he’s breaking another record. It’s really cool to be a part of,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman, who’s been a part of about 75 percent of those wins with Rimando.

In losses the last couple of weeks at Vancouver and Orlando, RSL played well for most of the match but eventually conceded goals late in dropping its third and fourth straight games on the road.

Beckerman said the team talked ahead of the D.C. United game about playing well and then backing it up with a result.

“We were talking about it a bit before the game, see if we could take the positives from those games and actually get some points. It was just an important game to get points,” said Beckerman.

Ironically enough, RSL didn’t get off to the start it wanted when the visitors struck first for the first time at Rio Tinto Stadium this season.

Paul Arriola put D.C. United ahead 1-0 in the ninth minute as he volleyed a corner kick from Zoltan Stieber past Nick Rimando. Arriola was unmarked in the box after Pablo Ruiz failed to mark him up near the top of the box.

D.C. United nearly doubled its lead in the 20th minute as Stieber forced Rimando into a close-range save.

RSL immediately countered the other direction, with Joao Plata and Baird teaming up for a fantastic goal. Plata whipped in a cross from the left sideline, with Baird getting in behind D.C. United defender Joseph Mora and then heading the ball from the spot past keeper Steve Clark.

In the 24th minute, Mora was then red-carded after the ref used video replay to determine that Mora intentionally stepped on the back of Savarino’s leg.

RSL immediately capitalized on the man advantage as Rusnak put Real Salt Lake ahead 2-1 by slotting home a shot through traffic after Brooks Lennon played a simple pass back to him.

In a game against Colorado earlier this year, Colorado’s Tim Howard was sent off after video replay confirmed a handball outside of the box. After that game Petke joked that, “Big brother’s watching now, and you’re not going to get away with anything.”

Mora found that out the hard way on Saturday.

Early in the second half, Rusnak helped RSL tack on an insurance goal in the 56th minute as he played a through ball in behind D.C. United’s defense to Savarino, who finished 1v1 with the keeper for the 3-1 lead.

Savarino’s goal proved to be the winner when D.C. United’s Steve Birnbaum outjumped Lennon to a cross from Nick DeLeon in the 83rd minute and headed it past Rimando to whittle the lead to 3-2.

Despite being shorthanded, D.C. United put RSL’s defense on its heels late in the game as it pushed for an equalizer.

“Any coach, any team will tell you — maybe unless you’re Barcelona or one of those teams — it’s difficult playing against a team with 10 men because they obviously sit back and get in an organized block and make it difficult to penetrate. … And D.C. is a team that’s very good in the counter, and they make you pay for it,” said Petke.

Rimando was ready for most of those D.C. United attacks as he made five saves to earn win No. 200.