They say good things come to those who wait, and tonight D.C. United forward Lionard Pajoy's patience paid off.
Waiting at the edge of Real Salt Lake's six-yard box, Pajoy grabbed the glory in dramatic fashion with a diving header. Up until that moment, the 60th to be specific, United had yet to get itself on the score sheet this season.
"The ball just rolled out to me," said midfielder John Thorrington, who set the play in motion with a deceivingly innocent-looking chip on target. "Everybody tried to rush the ball so I just thought that instead of try to smash the ball through a crowd I'd try to go over it. Nick [Rimando] made a good save and thankfully Leo [Pajoy] was there to head it in."
"I was waiting for my opportunity to show up," Pajoy said through an interpreter. "When I saw the ball that's all I wanted to do: to put it in the back of the net."
And with a diving header, that's exactly what the oft-criticized striker did, putting D.C. United up 1-0 and tallying the Black-and-Red's first -and only- goal of the season.
"I'm happy for him," said Thorrington. "He works his tail off for the team and you know most strikers are only judged on how many goals they score, but for me he does so much more than just that."
Since joining DCU midway through the 2012 season, Pajoy has contributed major minutes but has lacked the finishing touch United has desperately needed. In his 16 matches with the club last season, a starter in each, Pajoy had just three goals and two assists.
"I think everyone tends to say, 'oh he's not the greatest finisher' but the work he puts in off the ball, I think is phenomenal and it's what we need," said teammate Chris Pontius, who broke through defenders in the 32nd minute thanks to a set up from Pajoy that created a dangerous moment for RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
"He scored a goal tonight. The one that won the game," said head coach Ben Olsen. "So you're not going to get any knocks on Pajoy right now from me."
But Pajoy aside, the entire team is struggling to generate enough offense at the moment.
Part of that can understandably be attributed to start-of-season adjustments. Last year's lead scorer, Chris Pontius, spent much of the offseason recovering from a hamstring injury that heartbreakingly pulled him from United's final elimination match against Houston in the Eastern Conference Championship last Fall. The team has also said goodbye to setup specialist Branko Boskovic and fellow offensive impact players Maicon Santos and Hamdi Salihi while welcoming forwards like Thorrington, Carlos Ruiz, Kyle Porter and Marcos Sanchez to the starting lineup.
"We'll have to work during the week," Pajoy said of what this team must do to generate more offense. "The bottom line is that we won tonight but there are obviously areas to correct and we're working on that. As we start coming together more as a team those opportunities will come."
"It's a bit of rust and it will come," said Pontius. "Especially when you're bringing back the league MVP  in De Rosario next game so I think that's only going to ease things up for us."
Dwayne De Rosario has been held out of the lineup due to a two-game suspension, the remainder of which he served on Saturday. Despite missing the final seven matches of the regular season in 2012 with an MCL injury, De Rosario led the club in assists (12), shots (81) and finished second in goals with seven.
"No question he's a very important player to us and we're all aware of his contributions and his awareness of the league and how much he can actually create," said Pajoy. "But it takes 11 players to make things happen on the field and we all need to look to improve, no matter who's on the field at that time."
With De Rosario back in the lineup, D.C. United will look to improve on their goal total when they travel to Red Bull Arena on Saturday in their first meeting with New York since eliminating the club in the eastern Conference Semifinals last November.