Preview: Eliminated DC host Sporting in season finale

D.C. UNITED vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.

7:30 p.m. ET (CSN-MA+; KSMO)
October 22, 2011 (WEEK 32; MLS Game 301)

D.C. United conclude their 2011 campaign when they play host to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. For United, the bid to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs came to an end at midweek, in a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers. Sporting come into the game knowing a point will keep them in the top three of the Eastern Conference and a berth in the quarterfinals, after securing their first playoff berth in three seasons with a 2-0 win against New York last weekend.

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REFEREE: Alex Prus. SAR (bench): Eric Proctor; JAR (opposite): Corey Parker; 4th: Mark Kadlecik
MLS Career: 191 games; FC/gm: 27.2; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 43; pens: 51

INJURY REPORT: D.C. UNITED - OUT: MF Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear); MF Chris Pontius (R tibia fracture); DF Jed Zayner (L knee sprain); PROBABLE: DF Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain) ... SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: DF Daneil Cyrus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); MF Peterson Joseph (R knee contusion); PROBABLE: FW Kei Kamara (R ankle contusion)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (42 meetings): Sporting 15 wins (0 shootout), 66 goals ... United 18 wins (1 shootout), 60 goals ... Ties 9
  • AT RFK STADIUM (20 meetings): United 12 wins (0 shootout), 33 goals ... Sporting 4 wins (0 shootout), 23 goals ... Ties 4
  • In the first meeting between the teams this season, Kei Kamara scored the game's lone goal in the 19th minute, Aug. 21 at Livestrong Sporting Park.
  • The visiting team has not won in the series since 2007, when both D.C. and Kansas City won at the other's stadium. The teams split their two meetings a season ago.
  • United have won the last three meetings at RFK Stadium, since KC's 4-2 win April 14, 2007.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. DC: P5 W2 L2 D1 ... Ben Olsen v KC: P1 W0 L1 D0

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • 8/21: KC 1, DC 0 (Kamara 19)
  • The game's lone goal came after 19 minutes. Omar Bravo's cross was cleared out of the penalty area, but Kei Kamara tracked down the ball and unleashed an unstoppable blast on the half-volley from just outside the box that goalkeeper Joe Willis could only watch.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza - Kei Kamara, Omar Bravo (Michael Harrington 89), C.J. Sapong - Teal Bunbury (Birahim Diop 73)
  • D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Joe Willis - Perry Kitchen, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard (Joseph Ngwenya 80) - Clyde Simms - Andy Najar, Santino Quaranta, Chris Pontius - Blake Brettschneider (Dwayne De Rosario 46), Josh Wolff (Marc Burch 65).

D.C. UNITED

D.C. United ended their four-game losing streak but still saw their bid to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs come to an end, playing to a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. United have 39 points from 33 games on the year, sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • Portland struck first in the 24th minute. Defender Rodney Wallace provided the service from the left, looping in a cross that found the head of Kenny Cooper, and he nodded home past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid at the near post.
  • United drew even in the 72nd minute. Dwayne De Rosario received a Josh Wolff pass with his back to goal at the top of the box, pivoted on defender Eric Brunner, and unleashed a left-footed shot that beat Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins inside his right post.
  • That set the stage for some late drama as United tried to stay alive. D.C.'s Blake Brettschneider had a possible game-winning goal waved off for offside, then De Rosario beat Perkins to a flick and rounded the 'keeper, only to have a sure goal blocked by Brunner. Deeper into stoppage time Joseph Ngwenya had a last-gasp effort saved by Perkins, who then was able to spring up and block the follow-up effort as well.
  • United coach Ben Olsen made three changes to the team that suffered a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium. Ethan White, Santino Quaranta and Charlie Davies came into the team, in place of Clyde Simms, Stephen King and Austin da Luz.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-1-2-1-2): Bill Hamid - Chris Korb, Ethan White (Joseph Ngwenya 92+), Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard (Austin da Luz 71) - Perry Kitchen - Andy Najar, Santino Quaranta - Dwayne De Rosario - Charlie Davies (Blake Brettschneider 51), Josh Wolff.

TEAM NEWS

  • With the defeat, United were eliminated from playoff contention for a fourth consecutive season. "I am extremely proud of the guys. Extremely disappointed that we haven't made the playoffs," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "Again, I apologize to the fans and the organization. I'll take the blame for it. I can promise you I'll get better as a coach, and this team will get better."
  • D.C. United took a total of 26 attempts at goal and put eight on target - both season highs. "I can't believe nobody scored down that stretch. The amount of chances that were gone in the end were pretty remarkable," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "I have to look at it, but it seems that we had the better ones. It just wasn't our night. Troy [Perkins] came off with a couple of saves, and they did well to put their bodies in front of us."
  • Dwayne De Rosario regained the outright lead in the MLS Golden Boot race with his 16th goal of the season, the most he's scored in any of his 11 MLS seasons, besting his mark of 15 with Toronto FC last year.
  • "He's a pretty remarkable player. I don't know many guys with his commitment and sense of the game - it's amazing. He took a knock, and it's been a recurring theme in the last couple of weeks," said Olsen. "It seems like it's a new one every week - they are just kicking the [stuffing] out of him. ... He's taking all these knocks, and he labored through the first half, and somehow he found a way to put us on his back."
  • De Rosario has 13 goals in 17 games since coming to United in early July, after starting the season with Toronto FC then being dealt to the New York Red Bulls a few weeks into the campaign.
  • If [Dwayne De Rosario] doesn't get MVP of the league there's something wrong. Plain and simple. For the last three months of the season since he came here he's been the best player in the league by far - a country mile. He needs to win MVP," said Timbers head coach John Spencer.
  • For the second time in three games, Perry Kitchen - who had figured the entirety of the season in the back four - filled the holding midfield role. "Perry Kitchen - it's exciting to have him in this organization. He's a big-time player and he's got a huge heart. It's really nice to see him play," said Olsen.
  • For a must-win game to stay alive for the postseason, Olsen started United's three Homegrown Players in Bill Hamid, Ethan White and Andy Najar as well as the team's No. 1 pick from this year's SuperDraft.
  • "We got three rookies out there and two guys younger than that," said Olsen. "Perry, [Chris] Korb, and Ethan all played like men today. Andy was terrific; one-on-one he is still as feared as anybody in this league. It was just that final piece that was missing. It's disappointing because there was some pretty good stuff."
  • Charlie Davies made his first start in the last three games and his second over the last six. He came off shortly after the start of the second half.
  • "There are certain games when I think Charlie can really help you. But with teams that drop back, it takes away his space in behind," Olsen said. "There were some big boys, some trees back there, and we needed guys that could combine and we needed to play soccer through them. I thought Blake [Brettschneider] did a good job. He is young and he brought in some good effort and energy - we picked it up around that time."
  • We want to win. We don't want to end this year on a loss. We want to reward our fans with something to cheer about. We will go at it with the best team possible - that's still walking after this game. They are dead, they were absolutely dead out there - both teams. They were absolutely fried, and that's what you want. That's the way you want to go down, every guy basically not being able to walk after a game. So, I am proud of that fact.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City secured their postseason future, defeating a 10-man New York Red Bulls 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting have 48 points from 33 matches on the season, in a tie atop the Eastern Conference to open the week.

LAST MATCH

  • The Red Bulls were down to 10 men in dramatic circumstances after just 28 minutes when Thierry Henry was sent off by referee Kevin Stott for violent conduct toward SKC's Roger Espinoza.
  • Sporting finally took the lead in the 57th minute. A corner wasn't cleared and Júlio César bumped a short header to Teal Bunbury in the middle of the box. He drove a low volley past New York goalkeeper Frank Rost.
  • Then in the 73rd minute, SKC doubled the margin. Again it came from a corner kick, Matt Besler heading the service back toward the goal area and C.J. Sapong flicking it past Rost on the turn.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that reached a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Roger Espinoza came into the team for Davy Arnaud, and Graham Zusi also returned to the side in place of Jeferson.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Julio Cesar - Roger Espinoza (Davy Arnaud 55), Graham Zusi - Kei Kamara (Soony Saad 90), Teal Bunbury, Omar Bravo (C.J. Sapong 73).

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting Kansas City have qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2008, the longest drought of any team to have made the postseason this year. D.C. United last qualified in 2007.
  • "From the staff's perspective, I think we stayed very resolute to what we believed in," said SKC manager Peter Vermes. We knew we had a good team. We knew we could play a certain way, unfortunately it took some time and we knew that it would do that as well."
  • Sporting hold the advantage going into the final week in finishing atop the Eastern Conference. If they and Philadelphia Union tie for the Eastern Conference, the first tiebreaker is goal difference. With both teams at plus-9 after 32 games, if that also remains the same, the next tiebreaker is total goals scored for the season - SKC has 49 to Philadelphia's 44.
  • Kansas City is atop a conference in October for the first time since 2004, when they eventually won the Western Conference.
  • "I think we have some younger players who have grown a ton this year and played in some big games and really have come into their own now," said Davy Arnaud. "We have guys like Matt Besler who has really stepped up this year and been an absolute rock for us in the back. Graham Zusi and Chance Myers and Roger [Espinoza] and Seth [Sinovic]. We have a lot of young guys who have really stepped up and assumed a big role within the team and it is really important to have that. Guys have to make that transition and they have in a big way."
  • All four teams that have started the season with long road trips have now reached the playoffs that same season. SKC, which went 1-6-3 on its MLS-record season-opening road swing, joined the 1999 Columbus Crew (5-2 in 7 games), the 2003 LA Galaxy (0-4-4 in 8 games) and the Chicago Fire in 2006 (2-3-4).
  • "I thought it was always possible, we never lost belief but we were pretty down, confidence was pretty low," said defender Matt Besler. "We went from nine points to 48, so it's a pretty special group."
  • Rookie C.J. Sapong scored his fifth goal of the season, less than a minute after coming on as a substitute. He is tied with Houston's Will Bruin for most goals by a rookie this year.
  • "I don't know if people realize just how good he's been for us this year," Arnaud said. "C.J. has been outstanding every single game. In my mind, I don't think there is any question about who the Rookie of the Year is, to be honest with you."