D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City | MLS Match Preview
D.C. UNITED vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
Oct. 3, 2014 (WEEK 30, MLS Game #285)
8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
A crucial match at the head of the Eastern Conference comes up on Friday evening when D.C. United play host to Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium before an NBC Sports Network audience. United currently sit atop the conference following their 1-0 home win against Philadelphia last week and can clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs and go a long way to securing the top seed in the East with a victory. Sporting are six points adrift in a tie for second place, hitting the road off a third consecutive defeat at Sporting Park in a 3-2 loss to New England last Friday.
REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda. AR1 (bench): Matthew Kreitzer; AR2 (opposite): Matthew Nelson; 4th: Robert Sibiga
Grajeda MLS Career: 116 games; FC/gm: 24.3; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 18; pens: 19
SUSPENDED: DC: Perry Kitchen (caution accumulation; through Oct. 5)
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: DC: Fabian Espindola … KC: Igor Juliao, Seth Sinovic
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DC: Davy Arnaud, Lewis Neal, Chris Korb, Nick DeLeon … KC: Antonio Dovale, Eric Kronberg, Paulo Nagamura, Kevin Ellis, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler
DISABLED LIST: KC: Ike Opara, Chance Myers (season-ending injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
ALL-TIME (50 meetings): United 20 wins (1 shootout), 66 goals … Sporting 20 wins (0 shootout), 73 goals … Ties 10
AT D.C. (24 meetings): United 13 wins (0 shootout), 35 goals … Sporting 6 wins (0 shootout), 26 goals … Ties 5
5/31: DC 1, KC 0 (Espindola 28)
8/23: KC 0, DC 3 (Espindola 24; Rolfe 28; Kitchen 31)
- The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and United have won the first two. Fabian Espíndola, Chris Rolfe and Perry Kitchen scored seven minutes apart in the first half to lead United to a 3-0 win Aug. 23 at Sporting Park; Espíndola scored the game’s only goal in the first half in a United victory May 31 at RFK Stadium.
- United’s two wins this year came after a seven-game undefeated streak for SKC in the series, dating back to 2010. United’s win in the last match was their first in Kansas City since 2007 and their first ever at Sporting Park, going nine visits without a victory.
- Coaches' records: Peter Vermes vs. DC: P13 W7 L4 T2 … Ben Olsen vs. KC: P9 W2 L6 T1
LAST MEETING (MLS) - AUG. 23
- The game's three goals came in a seven-minute span right at the half-hour mark. United opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Fabian Espindola took Luis Silva's pass, found space at the top left of Kansas City's penalty area, and slotted a low shot just past a diving Jon Kempin and inside the far post.
- The visitors doubled the lead just four minutes later, again with an assist to Silva. Chris Rolfe made a perfectly-timed run to slip behind Sporting's back line, finishing his 1-v-1 past Kempin from the top of the box.
- Three minutes after that, it was 3-0. This time, it was Rolfe's turn to play provider, his through ball springing Perry Kitchen with plenty of space to operate behind the back line. He drove into the upper left of the penalty area, made a quick cutback to avoid charging center back Aurelien Collin, and slotted the ball near post.
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jon Kempin - Igor Juliao, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Lawrence Olum - Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (Claudio Bieler 70) - Sal Zizzo (C.J. Sapong 37), Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad (Antonio Dovale 79).
- D.C. UNITED (4-4-1-1): Bill Hamid - Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp - Nick DeLeon (Alex Caskey 90), Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe - Luis Silva (David Estrada 68) - Fabian Espindola.
D.C. United put an end to their winless streak after three games, defeating the Philadelphia Union 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at RFK Stadium. United are still in first place in the Eastern Conference with 51 points from 29 games.
- The game's lone goal came after 10 minutes. A deflected cross found its way back to United fullback Chris Korb, who quickly whipped the ball in to the top of the six. Luis Silva was waiting and deftly headed the ball past Union 'keeper Rais Mbolhi and into the back of the net.
- Union center back Carlos Valdes kept his side close later in the first half when he cleared a Fabian Espindola effort off the line, after the D.C. striker had rounded Mbohli. United 'keeper Bill Hamid was called upon to make four saves for the shutout.
- United head coach Ben Olsen made two changes to the team that reached a 3-3 draw with the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Chris Korb and Fabian Espindola came into the side, replacing Samuel Inkoom and Michael Seaton.
- D.C. UNITED (4-4-1-1): Bill Hamid - Chris Korb (Chris Pontius 61), Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp - Sean Franklin, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Nick DeLeon - Luis Silva (Eddie Johnson 68) - Fabian Espindola (Lewis Neal 85).
- United won their fifth consecutive game at RFK Stadium, the club’s longest home winning streak since 2012, when they won seven in a row. The club record is eight consecutive home wins, set back in 1998.
- “At times I still think we can manage the game a little better,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “It’s a good and bad thing at times – we have guys that are just so hungry and can score goals and have the ability to do it and it becomes a little bit of a back and forth. But I can’t say enough about a group in general, the way they’ve handled the last two months.”
- With a win or a draw against Sporting KC, United will clinch a postseason berth after not qualifying a season ago. They will also qualify if Toronto FC fail to defeat the LA Galaxy, or if New York and Houston draw.
- “KC is doing well to keep pressure on us, New England is coming hard and fast. We want the No. 1 spot and we’re going to keep pushing for it,” said goalkeeper Bill Hamid. “Now the goal is to get as many points as possible, even if we go on the road - we have to get one point, we have to lock it down. We want to keep climbing the ladder so we can clinch that No. 1 spot.”
- Luis Silva scored his third goal in the last two matches, and now has 11 goals for the season. He had eight goals over his first two MLS seasons before this year.
- “His confidence is so high right now, every time he takes on players and he has the quality to do it. He’s got a little bit of everything; he’s calm and his composure is there,” said Olsen.
- Chris Korb came into the lineup, making his first league start since Aug. 9, coming in at right back. He was credited with his third assist of the season, his first since July 20.
- With Korb returning to the team, Sean Franklin moved forward to the right side of midfield, his first start at that position in league play this year. All of his first 23 starts had been at fullback.
- Eddie Johnson made his first league appearance since Aug. 31, coming off the substitutes’ bench for the final 22 minutes. He had also come on as a substitute in the midweek match in the CONCACAF Champions League against Panama’s Tauro FC.
- “I thought Sean did well in the midfield. Korb did what he needed to do. Our center backs were strong; Fabi still keeps producing magic and Silva keeps scoring. It’s a good group,” said Olsen.
- Chris Pontius also made his third consecutive appearance in a league match as a substitute, coming on for the final half-hour.
- “Having him back means a lot. He can play numerous roles. While games go on he can figure out how to turn into a No. 10 sometimes playing right behind those strikers,” said Hamid. “He’s very dynamic and we need that going into a stretch like this because he’s dangerous and teams can’t handle his movement and he can hit a ball from distance or on the move one time. He’s going to be a vital piece for us going into the playoffs.”
- Said Olsen: “He’s getting there, I think today was big for him, he pushed through that, especially when we were grinding there in the last 20 minutes. It’s a lot of work to get forward and also to come back and do all the dirty work.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City suffered their third consecutive defeat at Sporting Park, falling 3-2 to the New England Revolution on Friday evening. Sporting are in a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference with 45 points from 30 games.
- The Revolution took the lead in the 22nd minute. Kevin Alston chipped a cross to Kelyn Rowe at the top left corner of the 6-yard box, and his low strike rolled past 'keeper Eric Kronberg and just inside the post.
- The lead was doubled in the 35th minute on a remarkable goal. Revs center back Jose Goncalves won a challenge near the edge of New England's defensive third -- then took off straight down the middle of the field. He was not touched until he put a left-footed shot past Kronberg from just outside the penalty area.
- Sporting made it 2-1 in the 54th minute when Paulo Nagamura took a pass from Kevin Ellis, drove into the area and chipped over goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth from a tight angle.
- Then just two minutes later, Nagamura collected Antonio Dovale's pass and lofted a ball across the face of goal for Dom Dwyer to finish with a close-range header to level terms.
- But the Revs had the final answer. Jermaine Jones collected the ball just outside the top of the restraining arc and put in a low shot past Kronberg for the game-winner in the 85th minute.
- Sporting manager Peter Vermes made three changes to the team that strolled to a 4-0 victory against Chivas USA at StubHub Center. Eric Kronberg came in between the posts in place of Andy Gruenebaum, Kevin Ellis started in central defense for Aurelien Collin, and Jorge Claros came into the team in place of the suspended Lawrence Olum.
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Eric Kronberg - Igor Juliao, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Jorge Claros - Paulo Nagamura (C.J. Sapong 90), Benny Feilhaber - Antonio Dovale (Soony Saad 61), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi.
- Sporting Kansas City lost for a third consecutive game at home, the first time they’ve ever lost three games in a row at Sporting Park, and the first time in league play since 2006, when they played at Arrowhead Stadium.
- “I don't think I've ever said this to them before, but I said if you play the way you play tonight – if we put the goals aside – it's not that you're going to be competitive in this league, but you're going to win a lot and you're going to win often,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “It's extremely painful for the guys to walk out of here with nothing, but when you look at the long term and play three games in nine days with the intensity that we played with, it's a good sign for the future.”
- It was also Sporting’s fifth loss in their last six league matches; they have won just two matches since reeling off four consecutive victories July 12-26.
- “We had our four game skid there, but we got back on track with our wins against Chivas and the two CONCACAF games. I feel like we're playing better,” said defender Seth Sinovic. “Obviously we didn't get the result, but there's still some good soccer being played. We're scoring a lot of goals. We just have to be better defensively and get back to our true form being a really good, tough defensive team. That's what made us hard to beat last year.”
- Dom Dwyer became the first player in Kansas City club history to hit the 20-goal mark in league play for a season, scoring for a third consecutive match.
- “I haven't really thought about the number, to be honest. I'm focused on winning games. Twenty goals doesn't matter to me right now because we just lost,” said Dwyer. “Obviously I'm a forward, and you like to score. But I'd rather not score and win. It doesn't mean too much right now. We have four more games left, then the playoffs. Then maybe we can talk numbers.”
- Paulo Nagamura scored his first goal since May 10, netting the opener as he played in his third consecutive league match following a two-month absence through injury.
- “He's a winner and that's why he's valuable to the team. It's hard to find guys like that, but that's what he is. He'll find a way to win,” said Vermes. “It's simple. It's hard to find guys like that, but that's what he is. He has a winning mentality and he doesn't expect anything else, not from himself and not from his teammates, and that's why he's important to the team and that's why when he comes on we have success.”
- Sporting also shipped three goals in a game for the fourth time in the last six matches. They had not allowed more than two goals in any of their first 24 league matches.
- “It's evident that if you don't limit your mistakes, teams are going to punish you. We had three mistakes, and they punished us for it,” Sinovic said. “They're things we have to correct, and they're things we can correct. We've done it in the past and I think we'll do it again.”
- Kevin Ellis made his first league start since Aug. 29, coming into central defense in place of Aurelien Collin.
- “I would love if we didn't have as many injuries as we had over the course of the season. It's taken us out of our rhythm and I think's it's been a big issue for us. But I would say that what it has done is that it's helped us find a way with the guys that have not only come into the team and had to fulfill roles that they normally wouldn't have, but it's given them a lot of experience,” said Vermes. “If you look at tonight, Collin couldn't play and Kevin Ellis played. And he played excellent. He was fantastic. He was good in all aspects of the game. To see that and have guys that you can rely on this late in the season – that's a positive.”