By ALAN HAINKEL
KANSAS CITY, Kansas– Sporting Kansas City finished their home season on a positive note with a 1-0 victory over D.C. United on Friday night at Sporting Park.
Dom Dwyer’s seventh-minute strike held up on a cold, damp night that saw the surprise U.S. Open Cup champions fall for the 23rd time this season in front of a sellout crowd of 18,932, the 33rd consecutive sellout in Kansas City.
The play in the early going could charitably be considered sloppy. When asked in the postgame press conference if the play could be blamed on the weather, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said his club likes it when the pitch is wet and the ball is skipping around.
“It’s hard for me to chastise the guys because we have played so many games home and away where our form has been very good and we have come up short,” Vermes said.
Dwyer’s goal came as a result of a sloppy back pass from D.C. midfielder Jared Jeffrey to defender Perry Kitchen. Kitchen continued to backpedal as Sporting midfielder Peterson Joseph closed in on him. Joseph poked the ball away from Kitchen and into the path of Dwyer. Dwyer then rounded goalkeeper Bill Hamid and slotted it home.
Asked whether the play was a good defensive play or a mistake by his opponent, Dwyer said it was a nice defensive play.
“We work on high pressing, and (Peterson) Joseph did a great job pressuring the center back,” Dwyer said. “I knew that my job was to close the keeper, so I took a chance. He played it back, and I think the defender saw me coming halfway through his pass. I just took it around (the keeper) and finished it off.”
Eight minutes later, Jeffrey had D.C.’s only truly dangerous chance of the game. Jeffrey was played onside approximately 25 yards away from goal with only the keeper to beat. Jeffrey seemed to be looking to try to nutmeg Jimmy Nielsen and slowed his run, even with a teammate on either side. Jeffrey did eventually take a shot, but Nielsen was positioned perfectly and made the stop at point-blank range.
Vermes said it was the second straight game Nielsen has come up big like that. “(Nielsen) was stellar in (the Houston) game too,” Vermes said. “That’s the kind of save that you respect and want your goalkeeper to keep you in the game. He has the ability to make himself… He’s a big dude, but he makes himself look like a really big dude. Guys have a difficulty finding a goal and they usually miss.”
With the victory, Sporting KC clinched at least the second seed in the Eastern Conference and temporarily took over the lead in the Supporter’s Shield race, two points clear of both the New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers, who both have tough matches this weekend.