Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sporting KC suffers 1-0 loss at D.C. United

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City fell 1-0 at D.C. United on Saturday as Fabian Espindola's 28th-minute goal snapped his club's seven-game winless streak in the series dating back to 2010. D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid matched his season-high with five saves to earn the clean sheet in a match that saw Sporting KC outshoot the home side 16-7 at RFK Stadium.

Playing without three players due to international duty (Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Lawrence Olum) and two additional defenders following season-ending injuries (Chance Myers and Ike Opara), Sporting Kansas City saw two-time MLS All-Star Aurelien Collin exit the match in the ninth minute with a hamstring strain. He was replaced by homegrown player Erik Palmer-Brown, one of eight players to appear in central defense for the club this season.

The first shot of the game for either side came in the 18th minute as Espindola sent a cross from the endline that connected with Nick DeLeon, whose header from eight yards out was straight at Eric Kronberg. Just over a minute later, Palmer-Brown -- the youngest player in MLS at age 17 -- did well to thwart Designated Player Eddie Johnson with a sliding stop inside the area.

Dom Dwyer led all players with three shots in the first half, and four shots in the game, with his first coming in the 23rd minute. Seth Sinovic did well to beat Chris Korb on the dribble and find Dwyer at the near post but Jeff Parke deflected the attempt inches wide of frame.

D.C. United took the 1-0 lead at the 28-minute mark on Espindola's seventh goal of the year since being acquired from New York in the offseason. The Argentine cut in from the right touchline and floated a left-footed curler inside the far post that evaded Kronberg to stretch his goal-scoring streak to three straight games.

After allowing the team's first goal from the run of play in the first half this season, Sporting Kansas City responded with four scoring chances before the halftime break. Jacob Peterson directed a first-time shot on frame in the 34th minute, his 10,000th minute of MLS action (including postseason), that Bill Hamid was well-positioned to smother.

Peterson was involved again five minutes later, sending a dangerous cross into the path of Dwyer that was blocked in the goalmouth and collected by Hamid. The 23-year-old goalkeeper made his third and final save of the first half with a diving stop to deny Benny Feilhaber from long-range.

The final opportunity to level the score came in the final minute of the half after a trademark piece ofcombination play between Antonio Dovale and Paulo Nagamura. Nevertheless, Dovale's shot was ultimately blocked at the top of the area by former KC captain Davy Arnaud.

In the second half, D.C. United was held to just four shots -- and none on target -- but threatened in the 50th minute when Arnaud played Espindola behind the Sporting KC backline. Kronberg was alert to the danger and quickly darted from his line to take the ball off the foot of Espindola.

The rest of the half belonged to Sporting KC in a match which the visitors controlled 61% of the possession. Nagamura came close to pulling his side level in the 55th minute on a pinpoint pass from Peterson, but his poked shot was again met by Hamid.

Feilhaber's free kick in the 63rd minute connected with Peterson for a flick header that carried wide of the far post and beyond the reach of Kevin Ellis. Forward Soony Saad entered the match in the 77th minute and one minute later was nearly on the scoresheet when his cross from the right side of the area was deflected goalward and pushed away by Hamid at the last moment.

D.C. United midfielder Alex Caskey was sent off in second-half stoppage time for a late challenge on Ellis, marking the fifth red card shown to a Sporting KC opponent in the past seven games. He will miss D.C. United's match against the Columbus Crew next Saturday.

Sporting Kansas City will remain on the road next week as the reigning MLS Cup champions travel to Houston for a rematch of the Eastern Conference championship at 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday at BBVA Compass Stadium. The match will air live on KCMI 38 the Spot and SKCTV with the team's official watch parties at the Johnny's Tavern locations in the KC Power & Light District (1310 Grand Blvd.) and Overland Park (11316 W. 135th St.).