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11/23 FINAL
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Eastern Conference Championship

Sporting hit nearly all their marks in 1-0 win over DC

Sporting Kansas City planned their work and worked their plan – and it paid off with three road points to start the season.

“We set five objectives coming into the game,” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Saturday night’s 1-0 First Kick victory at D.C. United. “The first was to get a shutout. The second was to get a goal from the run of play. The third was to get a goal off a set piece. The fourth was to pick up points from this game. Fifth was to get our first road win of the season.

“We got four out of five. I’d say that’s not too shabby.”

For those of you keeping score at home, the second objective was the only box left unchecked.

RECAP: Sapong plays the hero

Sporting controlled the run of play throughout the game, with 56.6 percent of the possession and an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal, but Bill Hamid’s seven saves kept the scoreboard blank until 2011 Rookie of the Year C.J Sapong put his head to a corner kick in the third minute of second-half stoppage time.

“We were knocking the ball around very nicely the whole game, but the final pass, the final shot wasn’t there,” said Sapong, who came on for starting center forward Teal Bunbury after 75 minutes. “The last 10 minutes, we stepped it up and they couldn’t handle it. You could hear them out there, hoping for a tie. We definitely deserved the win.”

Though he wasn’t on the pitch for the game-winner, Bunbury earned his manager’s props for his energy up top before coming out.

“Teal wore them down for sure,” Vermes said. “Then C.J. was able to come in and give us a shot of energy. You have to give him a lot of credit on that set piece. Everybody was pulling and grabbing in there, and he was able to put his head on it.”

And while there were several standout performances in the opener – especially midfielder Roger Espinoza’s box-to-box energy and focus, winger Kei Kamara’s hard work to create chances and a rock-solid night from the central defensive tandem of Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler – Vermes found it hard to single any player out for special praise or chastisement.

“I have to say that I really don’t think there’s a guy I could speak poorly about,” he said. “All of our guys were very good in their roles and responsibilities in our game plan. From Jimmy [Nielsen, Sporting ’keeper and captain] on out, it was excellent tonight.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at steve@artkc365.com.