D.C. United stun Sporting KC to retake top spot in the East

D.C. United Photo by USA Today Sports Images

By TATE STEINLAGE 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — D.C. United’s message to Sporting Kansas City Saturday was a clear one: “Not this time.”

Prior to Saturday, D.C. United hadn’t won in Kansas City since 2007. Not at Sporting Park; not even at the semi-professional baseball stadium that Sporting KC played at for three seasons. But Saturday night it was all D.C. as United thrashed Sporting KC 3-0 to take back the top spot in the MLS Eastern Conference.

United enjoyed perhaps the best seven-minute span in team history. The visitors struck three times between the 24th and 31st minutes off efforts from Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe, and Perry Kitchen to flatline what was a boisterous atmosphere at Sporting Park.

“D.C. was good on three counters, which our back four was absolutely horrendous on,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said after the match. “It’s one of those days where they came down on three routine plays and scored three goals. They should have scored six, maybe, with the number of chances that we gave them because of the way that we were organized in the back.

“There’s been a lot of credit given to our back four over a long period of time, but the way that they performed tonight, they’re also going to get some credit too — and that’s for giving up three goals.”

D.C. United manager Ben Olsen elected not to speak at the post-game press conference, but by the reaction of the visitor’s bench moments after the final whistle, it was a job well done.

Espindola opened the scoring in the 24th minute to give D.C. the early 1-0 lead. The shot followed an excellent pass from midfielder Luis Silva, setting Espindola up with his shot past goalkeeper Jon Kempin.

It was Espindola’s ninth goal on the season and his second against Sporting KC in 2014. The tally also marked the fourth consecutive year that the forward has scored at least nine goals.

Rolfe added to the D.C. lead four minutes later. Again it was Silva setting up the goal-scoring sequence, passing to Rolfe before the 31-year-old snuck an attempt past Kempin. The young goalkeeper got a touch on the ball but the shot was weighted enough to keep its trajectory at goal.

Kitchen concluded the scoring frenzy three minutes after United’s second goal. Rolfe passed to his midfielder on a perfect run behind the Sporting KC back four and Kitchen capitalized. The goal was met with a loud roar of “boos” from most of the 19,963 fans in attendance.

“I think we’d be lying if we say that we weren’t a little bit shellshocked,” Sporting KC defender and captain Matt Besler said about giving up three first-half goals. “You never expect to give up three goals at home.

“I think we get into halftime, we really sort it out, and come back in the second half and try and get the first one. That’s all you can do, try and get the first one, and if you get that one you can try and get the second.”

The first one never came, but that’s not to say that the chances weren’t there. Midfielder Graham Zusi hit the crossbar in the 60th minute on a 25-yard laser. A minute later forward Soony Saad came inches from brushing the inside of the post. And in the 73rd minute, forward Dom Dwyer connected on a cross with his head. All fantastic chances; all three resulting in zero goals.

The result is D.C. United’s (13-7-4) sixth win in eight matches. They’ll travel west to play the L.A. Galaxy in a midweek matchup. Sporting KC (12-7-6) fall to second in the Eastern Conference with the team’s second loss in three matches. They’ll attempt to rebound on Friday when they host the Houston Dynamo.

Watch the match highlights below:

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17 Responses to D.C. United stun Sporting KC to retake top spot in the East

  1. bandeeto says:

    Ouch. Not a KC fan, but i didn’t see this coming. Don’t remember the last time KC got beat like this at home. Interested to see how they will respond.

    I’ve got a suspicion that DC is peaking too early to take any hardware, but they’re sure can play the spoiler.

    it’s crowded at the top of the table right now. The rest of the season is gonna be intense! This is why i love MLS.

    RSL!

    • Dikranovich says:

      Come again bandito. DC united is in line for top spot in the east and the community shield, which I believe would be considered silverware. Added to an already stocked trophy case, which even in an off year was filled with a win in the us open cup, via a win in riot into.

      Not to mention espindola has been out and is just rounding into form. I’d say this is a team far from being just a spoiler, unless of course they spoil your fun again.

  2. elgringorico says:

    I love this team. I think Bennie O would do himself a favor by not benching EJ yet, and instead letting him remain a part of the team and let him play most games until the playoffs. Clearly they play better without him, but you don’t want to let his ego take control.

  3. MiamiAl says:

    DC United could have won this game 5-0. They are the real deal.

    • JoeW says:

      DCU is interesting. They’re not even close to being the most talented or deepest team in the league. But they do play as a team. And the attacking group of Espindola, DeLeon, Rolfe, and Silva works very well together. Even EJ does a good job as a setup man and creating assists. When you add in that they work hard and they defend VERY well (Hamid is having his best season ever and Boswell has been a revelation) then they’re a tough team to deal with.

      You know that SKC likes high pressure. They want to force defense errors, give you no time and space on the ball, and get possession in your half of the field near goal. But that also means they leave a ton of space behind their backline. DCU stayed composed on the backline–no killer errors there. And then exploited the high pressure system with great runs off the ball in the attacking half. The Rolfe and Kitchen goals are great examples of this. And Vermes is correct, DCU easily should have had 2 more…off of quick counters where attackers ran in to space created by a high backline and high pressure.

      • Kevin says:

        Agreed. For all the criticism Olsen has gotten from some of the DCU faithful on tactics his ability to get them to play as a cohesive unit is a big plus for him.

        And it’s been done in spite of EJ.

  4. Alex C says:

    SKC had a midweek (Tuesday) CONCACAF game against Real Esteli in Nicaragua and played many of their starters (including Collin and and Besler) and only came away with a 1-1 draw. Also I think their style of play requires a higher than normal energy level?

    Still great game from DC exploiting the high line.

    • Brando says:

      DCU had a midweek versus Waterhouse FC, and a game against Colorado on Sunday. Three games in six days.

      • Alex C says:

        Good point. That is a rough schedule, and I forgot DC was also playing CONCACAF games. Also DC’s midweek game was on Wednesday whereas SKC played a day earlier.

        It should still be kept in mind that SKC had to travel to Nicaraqua and back whereas DC played at home, and it looks like DC were smarter in that they gave their starters much more of a rest for the midweek game (or maybe they just had more viable options available?).

        Anyway great game for DC, and it looks like they may have managed their schedule better than SKC as well.

        • Brando says:

          MLS scheduling is terrible.

        • DE says:

          You’re right that DCU left its starters on the bench for the midweek game, but it’s not because we have more options available! Sure, EJ was available because he was suspended for two games, but he was the only “starter” (and maybe, hopefully!, not with that status for much longer) to start that game. We started a couple of other “regulars” in Neal and Estrada…but our backline was a complete mix-and-match job (with Attakora and Caskey as our fullbacks).

          Resting the backline may have made the most significant difference – Besler, Collin, and Sinovic all played the full 90 against Real Esteli…

          • DE says:

            Oh – and I guess what I just wrote would seem to make the point that we had more “options”, but what I didn’t say (but meant to) was that we should have done better than a 1-0 victory at home against a Jamaican club team.

  5. Todd says:

    I hope Ives now believes that DC are for real.

  6. FRANK says:

    SOMEONE SHOW EDDIE THE MONEY