DC United vs. Sporting Kansas City | MLS Match Preview

D.C. UNITED vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
May 31, 2014 (WEEK 13, MLS Game #119)
7 p.m. ET (CSN-MA; KMCI-38)

A crucial match at the top of the Eastern Conference is ahead on Saturday evening as D.C. United play host to Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium. The teams lie in second and third place in the division, separated by just a single point. United return home after their undefeated run was put to an end in a 2-1 loss at New England last weekend; Sporting saw their winless streak extended to four games following a 1-1 home draw with New York at midweek.

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REFEREE: Jorge Gonzalez. SAR (bench): Adam Wienckowski; JAR (opposite): Craig Lowry; 4th: Mark Kadlecik
MLS Career: 109 games; FC/gm: 25.1; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 35; pens: 28

SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: DC: Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DC: Lewis Neal … KC: Benny Feilhaber, Paulo Nagamura
DISABLED LIST: KC: Peterson Joseph, Ike Opara, Chance Myers
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: KC: Graham Zusi, Matt Besler (USA); Lawrence Olum (Kenya)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (48 meetings): United 18 wins (1 shootout), 62 goals … Sporting 20 wins (0 shootout), 73 goals … Ties 10
AT D.C. (23 meetings): United 12 wins (0 shootout), 34 goals … Sporting 6 wins (0 shootout), 26 goals … Ties 5
RETURN MATCHES: 8/23: Sporting Kansas City vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. CT; 10/3: D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m. ET

LAST YEAR (MLS)
4/5: KC 1, DC 0 (Bieler 89)
5/19: DC 1, KC 1 (Porter 65 – Opara 60)
10/18: KC 1, DC 0 (Dwyer 7)

  • Sporting KC have a seven-game undefeated streak alive vs. D.C. United, including two wins in three meetings a year ago, with one draw. 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 nine visits since, Sporting have won six games with three ties; that includes two wins and two draws in four meetings all-time at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, and victories in all four meetings at Sporting Park.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. DC: P9 W7 L2 T2 … Ben Olsen vs. KC: P7 W0 L6 T1

D.C. UNITED
D.C. United saw their undefeated run come to an end after three games, falling 2-1 to the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium. United are in a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference with 18 points from 12 games.

LAST MATCH

  • The Revolution took the lead in the 55th minute. Diego Fagundez created space, stepping into the box and parting the defense who were able to close in before he could get a shot on, but Mullins was right on the doorstep to punch home past United 'keeper Bill Hamid.
  • United drew level in the 73rd minute when substitute Fabian Espindola buried a cross from Cristian Fernandez, the first goal scored against the Revolution at home in more than six hours.
  • But the Revolution struck back just five minutes later when Teal Bunbury’s low cross through the box was pushed off the line by Hamid, but right to the foot of Fagundez, who fired into the back of the net from the left side of the area.
  • United finished the game a man down when Eddie Johnson was sent off by referee Juan Guzman for a serious foul.
  • United head coach Ben Olsen made three changes to the team that knocked off the Houston Dynamo 2-0 at RFK Stadium. Alex Caskey came into the midfield for Lewis Neal, and Eddie Johnson and Collin Martin started up top in place of Fabian Espindola and Chris Rolfe.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Bill Hamid - Chris Korb, Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell, Cristian Fernandez - Perry Kitchen - Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud (Kyle Porter 87), Alex Caskey (Lewis Neal 63) - Eddie Johnson (ejected 82), Collin Martin (Fabian Espindola 60).

TEAM NEWS

  • United saw their three-game undefeated run come to an end, their second loss over the last 10 games after losing their opening two matches of the season.
  • “We’re still making strides in the right direction. I don’t feel like we got played off the field,” defender Bobby Boswell said. “I felt like we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. Some things didn’t go our way, but it wasn’t like it was a bad performance by our team tonight. I think we take some positives away from that, learn from the mistakes, and the ultimate goal is to be better and learn from it.”
  • Fabian Espindola scored the United goal, and now has a goal or an assist in eight of his last 10 games, with six goals and five assists for the season.
  • “(Espindola) can change games and he did that again and he found himself in the right spot,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “Again, we fought back at 1-1 and we still had a chance for two down the stretch, but we were good tonight, and overall I’m really happy with the way we played.”
  • Chris Rolfe saw his string of seven consecutive starts – a regular in the first XI since April 2 – come to an end when he was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
  • “I think the coaches made some good changes, and those changes they worked out one way or the other, maybe gave Fabi (Fabian Espindola) some rest so he can go on and score the goal, get some new legs in there, some new life,” said Boswell. “I thought it was all right, the final score is what killed us. Giving up a goal after we scored one, that’ll pretty much hammer you anytime you play on the road.”
  • Collin Martin made his first appearance for United this season, partnering Johnson in attack and playing 60 minutes, and Alex Caskey also made his first start of the season, playing 63 minutes in a wide midfield role after four substitute appearances.
  • “I thought (Alex Caskey and Collin Martin) both did fine. I thought they both worked extremely hard. You can see that Alex has been around a little bit and shown that he was certainly capable of starting for us,” said Olsen. “Collin is really a talent that’s exciting to have. We believe in him and believe he’s going to play for this team in the starting 11 one day, so it was good to get him some minutes.”
  • Eddie Johnson returned to the starting lineup after a one-match absence, and it appears he would be unavailable for the Sporting contest after he was sent off in the 82rd minute by referee Juan Guzman – but the Independent Review Panel rescinded the red card, meaning he is eligible for this weekend.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City had their winless run extended to four matches with a second consecutive draw, reaching a 1-1 result with the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday evening at Sporting Park. Sporting sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with 19 points from 13 games.

LAST MATCH

  • After Sporting saw a couple of shots cleared off the line in the early exchanges, they took the lead after just nine minutes. Antonio Dovale took Benny Feilhaber's through ball in traffic, worked his way to a spot just outside the top of the restraining arc and unleashed a left-footed shot that curled into the lower left corner of Luis Robles' goal.
  • The Red Bulls pulled even five minutes after the break. Bradley Wright-Phillips made a run to take Thierry Henry's through ball, drove on goal and placed his shot from right on the edge of the box just under SKC 'keeper Eric Kronberg.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that reached a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC at Sporting Park. Aurelien Collin came into central defense for the injured Chance Myers, and Sal Zizzo started on a flank in place of Jacob Peterson.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Eric Kronberg - Igor Juliao, Kevin Ellis, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic - Benny Feilhaber - Paulo Nagamura, Alex Martinez (Jimmy Medranda 75) - Antonio Dovale, Dom Dwyer, Sal Zizzo (Soony Saad 72).

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting have now four games without a win with the draw, their longest since going four games without a win early last season.
  • “That last game, we should have taken three points,” midfielder Paulo Nagamura said. “I think this game was more even. We dominated the first half, and in the second half they created some chances and scored a goal. After that, it was just two teams with heavy legs trying to create something and not being successful. Definitely, it's frustrating because we were playing at home and we should go for the three points every time. But at the end of the day we got a point and that's going to count at the end of the year.”
  • Antonio Dovale started his third consecutive match and his fourth since coming to MLS and Sporting, scoring his first goal.
  • “He's very good with the ball. It's not easy to get the ball off him. He can give a final pass and as you saw he can score. He almost scored a second one in the second half,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “He's just got a very high aptitude for the game, and I think it's because he's smarter than most of the players he's playing against."
  • Igor Juliao started his fourth consecutive game, playing right back, a position he could be ready to inherit following the season-ending injury to Chance Myers.
  • “He's a good addition to the team and he's going to grow from game to game. Each time he goes out there he plays better and better and his confidence is increasing,” Vermes said. “The other thing I would say about him is that he's adapted and adjusted to our team very quickly, especially with the way that they play where he's from at Fluminense. He's adapted and adjusted very well.”
  • Continuing in a deeper lying role in the Sporting midfield, Benny Feilhaber recorded his third assist of the season, his second in the last two games.
  • Sal Zizzo returned to the starting lineup for the first time since May 14, playing 72 minutes as a winger.
  • “We are getting the most out of what we can right now. And with the different people we have in the game and trying to deal with a lot of injuries in regards to the middle of the park, it's never easy,” Vermes said.
  • Aurelien Collin returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two matches with a hamstring strain, partnering Kevin Ellis in central defense.
  • “We've got to be a tougher team to play against going forward. We have to impose our style and get points from those games. We have two tough opponents coming up. Like I said, we're dropping too many points right now and we've got to be better than what we have been the last few games,” said defender Seth Sinovic. “It's been a collective concentration (struggle). We always talk about being prepared when we lose the ball, and we keep making mistakes and we're getting punished for them. That's what good teams will do against you, and that's happened for the last few games now.”