Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CLIFF STARKEY
WASHINGTON — One of the chants from D.C. United fans declares that Fabian Espindola “scores when he wants.”
It would seem that Espindola’s recent form has him scoring even when he’s not trying.
A possibly accidental goal from a cross by Espindola, coupled with an imposing defense, gave D.C. United a 1-0 win at home Saturday against Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City.
D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen credited his team for holding on but admitted he was impressed with Kansas City’s game, despite their depleted roster.
“I thought they were very good,” Olsen said. “But I give Kansas City a lot of credit. Having their identity, even with the injuries they have. If you’re not one hundred percent against them, they’ll break you down. They’re not an easy team to deal with.”
Just like their midweek game against New York, Kansas City completely bossed the game for the first 15 minutes, but unlike Tuesday night, they gained nothing to show for it.
After finally getting the ball away from Kansas City, D.C. United went ahead in the 28th minute — thanks to a little luck and faulty goalkeeper positioning.
With his back to the attack, Espindola sent in a looping cross from the corner of the box for Eddie Johnson. Johnson had broken free, and had the cross met its man, Johnson would’ve had a clean header. Unfortunately for Johnson — and for Kansas City — the cross may have missed its mark badly, but found its way over a backpedaling Eric Kronberg in goal and into the corner of the net.
Kronberg isn’t sure Espindola’s 7th goal of the season was a cross or a shot, but shouldered the blame for letting it go in.
“I don’t know if he was intending to do that or not,” Kronberg told SBI after the game. “If he was, that’s a great play by him. I probably should’ve stayed my line, and let my defense handle that. I’ll definitely learn from this one.”
Olsen was also quick to heap praise on Espindola, but revealed that illness almost kept him out of the game.
“He’s a warrior. What (the media) didn’t know is that he was throwing up Wednesday all day,” Olsen said. “He’s out for two days, and shows up ready to go. He means a great deal to us. He’s got a nice arrogance about him, and I’m glad he’s on our side.”
Kansas City spent most of the night pressing hard for an equalizer, and D.C. United’s defense worked hard to absorb the constant onslaught. Bill Hamid had an outstanding night, providing save after save to keep the ball out of the net.
Hamid knows what Sporting Kansas City brings on the pitch, and lauded his defenders for preserving the win.
“(Sporting Kansas City) is a good team,” Hamid said. “They are known as the ‘Salt Lake of the east.’ We stayed strong. They pushed a lot of numbers forward, searching for the goal. It was good that the back line stayed strong—we defended the box really well, and came out with three points.”
Between international duty and injuries, Kansas City was not able to field the team that it would like, especially on defense. Coach Peter Vermes — and likely Sporting Kansas City fans — nervously watched defender Aurelien Collin go down in the 7th minute with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown, who was making his 2nd MLS appearance.
Vermes knows the struggles he has to keep his team afloat before the World Cup break.
“We have to keep moving guys around to get us through this period,” Vermes told SBI. “We have one more game before the break. We’ll do the best we can with it.”
D.C. United captain Bobby Boswell continues to exude confidence when discussing his team.
“I think this team is a special group,” he said. “We work pretty damn hard during the week. We’ll take the three points.”
Next week, D.C. United play host to the Columbus Crew at FedEx Field on Saturday, while Sporting Kansas City travel down south to play the Houston Dynamo on Friday.