Who says you can’t go home?
Manassas, VA native C.J. Sapong headed a corner kick into the net in the 93rd minute to help Sporting Kansas City notch a 1-0 road victory over DC United. While KC had a majority of the possession and at times looked ready to take the lead throughout, this game seemed headed to a scoreless draw before the late goal. Despite the one goal, this was a game that had some excellent chances and if not for DC keeper Bill Hamid and some careless DC passing, this could have been a much higher scoring game.
The strategy going into the game by Sporting Kansas City was to attack the right wing. Playing the usual 4-3-3, Kei Kamara was constantly attacking DC left back Daniel Woolard and, for the most part, failed to create many quality chances. With the DC left consisting of a recovering from injury Chris Pontius and less experienced Woolard, this may have looked like the smart strategy. However, Kansas City’s best chance to score was late in the first half when Roger Espinoza fed a pass from the left wing to Kamara who skied over Woolard in front of the net to head a ball towards goal. Somehow DC keeper Bill Hamid was able to deflect it with his shoe top to keep the game scoreless.
The KC pressure got to the DC defense in the second half and multiple times the back four had top scramble to clear the visitor’s chances. However, starting forward Teal Bunbury himself failed to convert two good chances in the early second half and KC failed to crack Hamid. In the 75th minute head coach Peter Vermes swapped Bunbury for Sapong, who instantly made an impact and had a better presence than Bunbury. While Kansas City didn’t look like world beaters on the night, they didn’t need to in order to secure all three points. Their pressure offense created chances and their goal was the result of an opportunity created by their aggressive play – specifically Sapong forcing Brandon McDonald to drag him down just outside the box in the 91st minute. This free kick was deflected out which led to the corner. Sporting KC now travels home to face the Revolution and have a chance to grab some wins early while building their points total.
As for DC United, these statistics tell the tale: one shot on target, 65% passing accuracy, and 43.4% of the possession. The DC midfield struggled mightily against the KC defense to string together passes, and the result was a punchless DC attack that left reigning MVP Dwayne De Rosario silent for most of the night. Second half substitutions seemed to spark DC especially in the 88th minute when sub Maicon Santos skied an open shot after a great pass from De Rosario. However, these chances were few and far between and Jimmy Nielsen wasn’t forced to make a save until late in the second half. The best weapon for DC on the night was Andy Najar on the wing, who could use his speed and ball handling to create a little space for himself. However, his crosses once he found that space in the visitor’s end were poor and too often he tried to take on the defenders by himself.
On the night DC certainly looked like a squad integrating some new players. Coach Ben Olsen after the games noted that his team was rusty, both physically and mentally but fought through the fatigue. The DC schedule doesn’t get any easier with the team’s next game at Los Angeles, and the Black and Red could be facing an early hole. Certainly their midfield needs to protect possession more and create scoring opportunities for the forwards. The defense, while almost getting the clean sheet, cannot rely on Bill Hamid too much to keep providing cover for their mental errors. After fighting for a draw for most of the game, old ghosts haunted DC and cost them a point.