Preview: Crucial points up for grabs as Sporting host DC

SKC vs. DC 8-11-12

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SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs D.C. UNITED
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
August 11, 2012 (WEEK 23, MLS Game #217)
8:30 pm ET / 7:30 pm CT (KSMO; CSN-MA)

A vital match in the Eastern Conference is ahead on Saturday evening when the newly crowned US Open Cup champions Sporting Kansas City meet D.C. United at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting come into the week in a tie for the top spot in the East, but United are just four points back in fourth place. In their last league match, Sporting ended a three-game winless run with a 1-0 win at New England, while United returned to action with a 1-0 home win vs. Columbus.

REFEREE: Edvin Jurisevic. AR1 (bench): Craig Lowry; AR2 (opposite): Chris Strickland; 4th: Jorge Luna Hernandez
MLS Career: 48 games; FC/gm: 22.4; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 4; pens: 6

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE HERE (PDF)

INJURY REPORT:

  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); GK Jon Kempin (R ankle fracture); QUESTIONABLE: MF Peterson Joseph (L hamstring strain); DF Chance Myers (R groin strain); FW Jacob Peterson (R shoulder sprain); FW C.J. Sapong (R hip flexor strain); PROBABLE: DF Lawrence Olum (L groin strain)
  • D.C. UNITED – OUT: MF Lance Rozeboom (L knee ACL tear); DF Robbie Russell (L plantar fasciitis); DF Daniel Woolard (concussion); PROBABLE: FW Dwayne De Rosario (L shoulder soreness)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Julio Cesar, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers, Jimmy Nielsen, Paulo Nagamura, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler … DC: Maicon Santos, Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, Andy Najar, Dejan Jakovic

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (44 meetings): Sporting 17 wins (0 shootout), 68 goals … United 18 wins (1 shootout), 60 goals … Ties 9
AT KC (22 meetings): Sporting 11 wins (0 shootout), 43 goals … United 6 wins (1 shootout), 27 goals … Ties 5
• The teams are meeting for the second time this season. C.J. Sapong’s goal three minutes into stoppage time gave Sporting a 1-0 victory on March 10 at RFK Stadium, the season opener for both clubs.
• D.C. United haven’t won in Kansas City since a 1-0 victory, July 4, 2007, a span of five visits.
• Last year’s Sporting win at RFK Stadium was the first win by a road team in the series since United’s 2007 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
• Coaches record: Ben Olsen vs. KC: P3 W0 L3 D0 … Peter Vermes vs. DC: P7 W4 L2 D1

2012 (MLS):
3/10: DC 0, KC 1 (Sapong 93+)
• United ‘keeper Bill Hamid had been the story of the first 90 minutes, stopping Sporting at every turn. But in the third minute of stoppage time, second-half substitute C.J. Sapong lost his marker on a corner kick, found space and placed a clinical header inside the near post for the match-winner.
• D.C. UNITED (4-4-2): Bill Hamid - Robbie Russell, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard - Chris Pontius (Danny Cruz 74), Perry Kitchen, Branko Boskovic (Josh Wolff 66), Andy Najar - Dwayne De Rosario, Hamdi Salihi (Maicon Santos 80).
• SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Roger Espinoza, Julio Cesar - Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, Bobby Convey (Peterson Joseph 85) - Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 75).

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City put an end to their winless run at three games, defeating the New England Revolution 1-0 on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium. Sporting have 40 points from 23 matches, now in a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Houston Dynamo.

LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: NE 0, SKC 1

• Sporting grasped the lead after 20 minutes. Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms tried to nod a bouncing ball back to a teammate, but Teal Bunbury nipped in ahead and streaked into the penalty area before slotting home past New England goalkeeper Matt Reis.
• Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made one change to the team that fell 2-1 to the Columbus Crew at Livestrong Sporting Park. Julio Cesar came into the team in place of Jacob Peterson.
• SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Paulo Nagamura (Peterson Joseph 86), Julio Cesar (Michael Thomas 74) - Bobby Convey (Soony Saad 7), Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara - Teal Bunbury.

TEAM NEWS
• Sporting kept a clean sheet for the fourth time in the last six matches, but they’ve taken just eight points from those games (two wins, two draws).
• “We’ve really figured out a way to play different areas on the field defensively and I think that part is good. And finally getting chances is a big thing for us,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes. “We’ve created a ton of chances this year, we maybe haven’t finished them all, but when you’re creating those chances your eventually going to score. At home maybe not as much, but on the road it’s a little bit different.”
• The shutout was the 10th of the season for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, keeping him in a tie for the league lead with Houston’s Tally Hall.

• Sporting will now look to put together back-to-back wins, something they haven’t done since May 27-June 16, when they knocked off San Jose and Toronto.
• “We’ve got a lot of games still ahead of us and it’s about us just trying to getting better as we go along. And right now, I think we’ve done a really good job of playing on the road, which I think will help come playoff time,” said Vermes. “And more importantly, we’ve got to get some guys back off injuries. That’s a big thing for us right now."
• Bobby Convey was forced off after just seven minutes with a hamstring ailment, his third consecutive start after missing two months with a series of injuries.
• “It’s not a pull," Vermes said. "It’s more of a tweak and a cramp, so hopefully he’s getting a little better. We’ll see.”
• Teal Bunbury started his second consecutive match, his first time with back-to-back starts in more than a month, and scored his fourth goal of the season. “Teal did a great job – opportunistic. His second touch was awesome. The finish was – I always say it’s kind of his patent finish – he loves to go to the left and curl that ball back post,” Vermes said.
• On Wednesday, Sporting won the US Open Cup for the second time, defeating Seattle Sounders FC on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.
• A Kei Kamara penalty kick in the 84th minute for SKC was answered by a Zach Scott goal two minutes to level terms and sent the match into extra time. In the penalty shootout, Sporting converted three of their five attempts while Sounders FC missed on their final three, giving the home side the title and denying Seattle’s historic bid to win a fourth consecutive Open Cup championship.
• Here’s the Sporting team: Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Michael Harrington 100), Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 88).

D.C. UNITED
D.C. United snapped their two-game losing streak, defeating the Columbus Crew 1-0 on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. United are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 36 points from 21 games.

LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: DC 1, CLB 0

• The game's lone goal came in the 49th minute after stellar work from rookie Nick DeLeon. After dribbling into the corner, he cut back on Crew defender Josh Williams, spun away and sent a cross into the box. Long Tan backheeled the ball, and Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum batted it away. But the rebound bounced right to Chris Pontius, who deposited it into the goal.
• United head coach Ben Olsen made four changes to the team that lost 1-0 to the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Bill Hamid returned between the posts for Joe Willis, Emiliano Dudar came into the back four for Dejan Jakovic, Branko Boskovic came into the midfield for Lewis Neal, and Long Tan came in up top for Hamdi Salihi.
• D.C. UNITED (4-3-1-2): Bill Hamid - Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Emiliano Dudar, Daniel Woolard (Lewis Neal 63) - Nick DeLeon (Dejan Jakovic 79), Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius - Branko Boskovic - Dwayne De Rosario, Long Tan (Maicon Santos 67).

TEAM NEWS
• United now have a seven-game winning streak at RFK Stadium, one game shy of the club record set March 21-May 23, 1998.
• United lengthened their home unbeaten streak to eight games, having not lost at RFK Stadium since the opening game of the season (the first meeting with Sporting KC).
• After coming off the substitutes’ bench for two consecutive matches, rookie Nick DeLeon made his second consecutive start.
• “It's tough. You go from having a three-month season to all of a sudden – with preseason – 10-plus months,” said Chris Pontius. “Consistency is the hardest thing as a rookie, but I think he's found his groove back. I just told him the thing that makes him successful is him going at guys, and you saw that tonight, putting defenders on their heels.”
• Daniel Woolard was forced off the field after 63 minutes with a head injury, and seems likely to miss a start for the first time since the second game of the year.

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• “Right now we’re in a holding pattern with him,” Olsen said. “[We need] to make sure we go through all the steps to ensure his safety. It’s not a perfect science with this stuff. We’ll evaluate Daniel symptomatically, as we do every guy with these head injuries. It’s a bad part of the game and it seems like it’s happening more and more.”
• Emiliano Dudar made his first start since April 28 and played the entire match in central defense. "He had some errant passing that didn't help us at times, but he also had some passing and calmness that really does help us,” said Olsen. “I thought overall he had a pretty good day."
• Striker Long Tan made his first start for United since he was acquired from Vancouver Whitecaps FC, after coming off the substitutes’ bench in the game in Columbus.
• “His work rate is unbelievable. We didn't find him as much as we needed to in behind. I have to look at the film, but I think he made some very good runs. If we find him, he can be very dangerous,” Olsen said. “I was hoping he could have got a goal. He did a great job on the goal to get a little flick on there. He put a good night in for sure.”
• Branko Boskovic returned to the starting lineup after missing the Columbus, playing the full 90 minutes for the first time since last Oct. 23.
• United will also have Andy Najar back after his successful sojourn to the London Olympic Games with Honduras.
• “I’ve been through that,” Olsen said. “Whether you do well or not, it’s intense being a part of the Olympics. Doing well, maybe even is more taxing. He didn’t play the last game and he didn’t have 90-minute games before that so, physically, he should be OK. We’ve just got to get him there mentally.”