MLS Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs. DC United

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs D.C. UNITED
Sporting Park - Kansas City, Kan.
April 5, 2013 (WEEK 6, MLS Game #43)
7:30 p.m. CT (KSMO)

 

Sporting Kansas City put their long shutout streak on the line in a key Eastern Conference battle when they receive D.C. United on Friday evening at Sporting Park. SKC haven’t allowed a goal now in three-plus games, since March 9, following their 2-0 home win against the Montréal Impact last weekend. United return to action with just two goals scored in their four matches this season, coming off a 2-1 home loss to the Columbus Crew on March 23.

REFEREE: Armando Villarreal. SAR (bench): Corey Rockwell; JAR (opposite): Jeff Muschik; 4th: Edvin Jurisevic
MLS Career: 11 games; FC/gm: 24.0; Y/gm: 2.7; R: 6; pens: 4

DISABLED LIST: KC - Teal Bunbury, Jacob Peterson
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
Suspended next yellow card: none
Suspended after two yellow cards: Aurelien Collin (SKC), Seth Sinovic (SKC)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (45 meetings): Sporting 18 wins (0 shootout), 70 goals ... United 18 wins (1 shootout), 61 goals ... Ties 9
AT KC (23 meetings): Sporting 12 wins (0 shootout), 45 goals ... United 6 wins (1 shootout), 28 goals ... Ties 5
RETURN MATCHES: 5/19: D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City, 5 p.m. (UniMas); 10/18: Sporting Kansas City vs. D.C. United, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)

LAST YEAR (MLS):
3/10: DC 0, KC 1 (Sapong 93+)
8/11: KC 2, DC 1 (Bunbury 13; Zusi 63 – DeLeon 23)

  • Sporting KC have a four-game winning streak alive vs. D.C. United. The last D.C. victory in the series came May 5, 2010 at RFK Stadium.
  • United have not won in Kansas City since 2007. In the seven visits since, Sporting have won four games with three ties; that includes two wins and two draws in four meetings all-time at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, and victories in both meetings at Sporting Park.
  • Sporting have won on each of their last two visits to RFK Stadium, a 1-0 scoreline on each occasion.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. DC: P8 W5 L2 T1 ... Ben Olsen vs. KC: P4 W0 L4 T0

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City put an end to their three-game winless run, stopping the Montréal Impact’s perfect start with a 2-0 victory Saturday evening at Sporting Park. Sporting are in third place in the Eastern Conference with 8 points from 5 matches.

LAST MATCH

Highlights: Sporting KC vs. Montreal

  • Sporting opened the scoring after just five minutes. Benny Feilhaber latched onto the ball at midfield and sent in a through ball for Claudio Bieler, who cut the ball away from Matteo Ferrari at the top of the box then buried his low shot inside the right post.
  • The home side finally sealed the outcome in the 80th minute. This time Feilhaber filtered a through ball for Graham Zusi, and he fought off a challenge from Impact center back Karl Ouimette in the area before burying a shot past Troy Perkins with his left foot.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made three changes to the team that played to a goalless draw with the New England Revolution. Chance Myers and Matt Besler came into the back four for Mechack Jerome and Ike Opara, and Graham Zusi came into the team for Soony Saad.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Oriol Rosell (Lawrence Olum 90) - Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber (Peterson Joseph 85) - Graham Zusi, Claudio Bieler, C.J. Sapong (Soony Saad 90)

TEAM NEWS

  • While winning for the first time at home this season, Sporting also extended their undefeated streak to three matches – all against Eastern Conference teams – following draws vs. Chicago and New England.
  • “I think we could have scored a couple more goals but outside of that they were great on both sides of the ball,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes. “In transitional moments, in regard to us losing it and winning it back and then the second efforts in different situations were tremendous. I just think that our ultimate pressure lead to two very high quality goals. Great movement, excellent passes, and then great finishes.”
  • Graham Zusi returned from international duty to his place on the right side of the attacking threesome, and scored his second goal of the season, his first since opening day.
  • “He's playing with a lot of confidence, but he's also a very good player,” Vermes said. “His game is definitely evolving, and the confidence is allowing him to do some of the things that he's progressed in on the field.”
  • Benny Feilhaber recorded his first two assists since coming to Sporting in an offseason deal with the New England Revolution. The two assists matched his season total through 29 appearances with the Revolution a season ago; it was his second career two-assist game, also getting two Oct. 22, 2011 vs. Toronto FC.
  • “Kansas City plays a very different style of pressure than any other team in this league,” Feilhaber said. “It takes a little while for the new guys, including myself, to kind of pick up on it – when we want to go, when we want to hold a little more. It's obviously not the easiest system to figure out right off the bat, so I'm getting it little by little. I think I'm improving every game. Today, I think it all came together for myself and for the team.”
  • Said Vermes:” I told Benny as soon as he came off that this was his best performance for our team and it's exactly what we're looking for from him. I've seen him play for a long time and his defensive work and the bite he has in the midfield and today he was all over the place.”
  • It was a third consecutive shutout for Sporting and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who have now not conceded a goal in 339 minutes.
  • “That streak doesn't really matter. All that matters is winning,” said Nielsen. “We had an outstanding performance today. It was so attractive; it was so sexy to watch. I was so proud. It's the best soccer we've played since I came here. As a team and individually, the only word for it is ‘outstanding.’”
  • Claudio Bieler scored his third goal in five games, his first since netting in each of Sporting’s opening two matches of the season. His fifth-minute opener vs. Montréal ended SKC’s goalless drought at 198 minutes.

D.C. UNITED
D.C. United return to action following a weekend off, their last match a 2-1 home loss to the Columbus Crew on March 23. United are in a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 4 points from 4 matches.

LAST MATCH

Highlights: DC United vs. Columbus

  • Columbus broke through in the 15th minute when an unmarked Josh Williams headed in Tyson Wahl's free kick from just beyond the edge of the six-yard box.
  • But United leveled the score in the 22nd minute with a moment of brilliance from Rafael. He reached Chris Pontius' header, turned on a Crew defender and struck a low drive from beyond 35 yards that dipped away from goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum and inside the right post.
  • But the Crew scored the winner 13 minutes into the second half. Federico Higuaín sent in a curling free kick from the left that surprised United 'keeper Hamid and caused him to spill it. A half-clearance fell to Ben Speas, who hammered home an open shot from the edge of the 18-yard box for his first career MLS goal.
  • United head coach Ben Olsen made two changes to the team that reached a scoreless result with the New York Red Bulls. Daniel Woolard came into the back four for Dejan Jakovic, and Rafael Teixeira started in place of Marcelo Saragosa.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-3-1-2): Bill Hamid - James Riley (Carlos Ruiz 81), Daniel Woolard, Brandon McDonald, Chris Korb - Nick DeLeon (Kyle Porter 31), Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius - Dwayne De Rosario - Lionard Pajoy, Rafael Teixeira (Lewis Neal 70).

TEAM NEWS

  • United lost for the first time at RFK Stadium in league play since opening day of the 2012 season – when they suffered a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
  • “I don’t think there’s been good enough progression right now. But we’ve had some things to deal with. We’ve had some injuries and call-ups as an excuse, I suppose, and we’ve got some new guys fitting in—Rafael today and [Dwayne De Rosario] in a new position,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “I’m not overly alarmed. I don’t like what’s going on right now, the last two games in particular. But I do think that we have some new pieces and we are still finding out who we are, even though we have a lot of the same guys. “
  • Making his first appearance since signing as a Designated Player in the offseason, Rafael scored his first MLS goal – a stunning long-range strike.
  • “He is getting there. This was a big step for him. Obviously, he gets the goal, which helps,” said Olsen. “I thought it was crowded up there. Dwayne [De Rosario] was a touch high. There weren’t a lot of spaces or alleys to get into our forwards. And when Dwayne pulled off a little in the second half, there were more chances for Rafael and Pajoy. It was the first time they played together.”
  • United have scored two goals from four matches this season, with only two teams (New England and Chicago) having netted fewer goals this season.
  • “Most of it getting in a rhythm and getting that confidence to be able to play,” said Chris Pontius. “After last year, we need to be able to be more confident as players on the ball. ... We're not holding the ball enough. We need to give our defense more of a break to defend, and I think we do that with possession on the ball, and we just haven't done that.”
  • Goalkeeper Bill Hamid made seven saves vs. Columbus, and now has 20 saves for the season – the total is second in MLS, behind the 23 by Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, even following the bye week.
  • “We’re asking a lot of Bill Hamid right now. He’s a monster. And I wish I didn’t have to see him make so many great saves,” said Olsen. Said Dwayne De Rosario: “He's helped us to stay in the game. But we have to feed off that momentum, we have to feed off those big saves and push and initiate. Especially going back home. I just feel that we didn't really play with enough poise, enough passion.”
  • After playing as a withdrawn central attacker behind a lone striker in his first start in 2013, De Rosario was lined up as an attacking central midfielder behind a front two vs. Columbus.
  • “In the formation that we put out there, we are always going to have more attack,” said Olsen. “Dwayne in the midfield can help with ball possession. But it was just an easy day for them in the midfield. ... Even saying that, we still had good looks towards the end to tie it up.”
  • With Dejan Jakovic on international duty with Canada, Daniel Woolard made his first start since the season opener, coming into central defense.
  • “The backline did extremely well, especially [since] it was makeshift. [Daniel] Woolard had to step in – he came off a head injury last year and had to step in to center back and he did extremely well. Brandon [McDonald] did extremely well, too,” said Hamid. “Just getting the ball forward is something we have to work on – getting the ball to the midfield, then getting the ball to the forward and then laying off to the midfield. We gotta get the ball forward more often.”
  • Nick DeLeon lasted just 31 minutes before coming off with a hamstring strain and is expected to miss about 6 weeks with the injury.