Real Salt Lake is a very beleaguered club right now, and D.C. United was more than happy to expose those deficiencies Wednesday night.

In coach Peter Nowak's two years at the D.C. helm, his team has garnered a reputation as the hardest-working team in the league, and they never apologize for kicking an opponent when it's down.

RSL has now been the unfortunate recipient of a D.C. thumping twice this year.

Teen icon Freddy Adu recorded a goal and an assist just two minutes apart in the second half as D.C. trounced RSL 3-1 in front of 14,306 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

It was the second time this year D.C. exposed RSL's many weaknesses — the first being a 5-1 victory at RFK Stadium back in late August.

With just two matches remaining, Salt Lake is now dangerously close to equalizing the longest losing streak in MLS history. RSL's last win was a 2-1 victory over Chivas USA on Aug. 6. Wednesday's loss was the expansion club's 10th straight, and with two more losses it would tie the MetroStars' 12-game skid in 1999.

RSL's next game is Saturday at league-leading San Jose, followed by next Wednesday's regular-season final against Colorado at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"I think we're all down about the fact we've lost 10 straight when we feel there are at least five or six of those games that we could've won just as easily," said RSL coach John Ellinger.

If Salt Lake can string a 90-minute effort together in one of those final two matches, it might be able to cancel its seemingly inevitable reservation in the MLS record books.

For the third straight game Wednesday, it was a tale of two halves for Real.

Aside for a 29th-minute goal by Bobby Boswell, who flicked a cross by Christian Gomez past RSL keeper D.J. Countess, Salt Lake more than held its own against D.C United in the first half.

In fact, RSL actually outshot D.C. 7-3 in the first.

"I thought the first half, it definitely wasn't a fair result," said Ellinger. "I thought we created enough dangerous chances that we should've got a goal or two. They really only got one chance, and as usual it goes in. Same old story."

Throughout its 10-game skid, RSL has squandered many chances, and Wednesday was no different.

In the eighth minute, a Clint Mathis creative shot was cleared off the line by D.C. defender Boswell. In the 15th minute, a Melvin Tarley short-range toe-poke bounced off D.C. keeper Troy Perkins and over the end line. Then in the 33rd minute, Tarley wasted RSL's best opportunity when his first touch got away from him on a corner kick, and rolled harmlessly to D.C.'s keeper.

By not finishing any of those chances, RSL was forced to press in the second half, and D.C. took advantage.

In the 50th minute, Adu showed off his tremendous ability by spinning away from Brian Dunseth at midfield and then sprinting toward goal. Once he got to the edge of the penalty area, he calmly dribbled around Nelson Akwari and then slotted the shot perfectly by Countess. Leading 2-0, D.C. wasn't done.

Two minutes later, Christian Gomez banged in a cross from Adu as D.C. moved to within two points of Eastern Conference-leading New England with two to play.

RSL's lone goal was scored on an Andy Williams penalty kick in the 78th minute, after Jamie Watson was taken down in the box.

"We want to try and end the season on a good note, and we have two games left to do that," said Chris Brown. "We have to forget about this game and worry about the next two."

ENDLINES: In the second half, Jamie Watson, Leslie Fitzpatrick and Dante Washington replaced Melvin Tarley, Robert Scarlett and Adolfo Gregorio . . . Chivas USA tied Colorado 1-1 Wednesday night to move within a point of RSL at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com