Sporting Kansas City vs. DC United | MLS Match Preview

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs D.C. UNITED
SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
Aug. 23, 2014 (WEEK 24, MLS Game #227)
7:30 p.m. CT (KMCI-38, MLSsoccer.com Stream of the Week)

It’s a clash of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference when Sporting Kansas City entertain D.C. United on Saturday evening at Sporting Park. SKC leads the conference and is tied atop the MLS overall table after returning to their recent form with a 4-1 home win against Toronto FC last weekend. United put the brakes on a two-game losing slide with authority, rolling to a 4-2 win against the Colorado Rapids at RFK Stadium last weekend.

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REFEREE: Alan Kelly. AR1 (bench): Adam Garner; AR2 (opposite): Paul Scott; 4th: Hilario Grajeda
MLS Career: 10 games; FC/gm: 28.1; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 4; pens: 3

SUSPENDED: DC: Eddie Johnson (through Aug. 24)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, Paulo Nagamura … DC: Davy Arnaud
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Antonio Dovale, Eric Kronberg, Kevin Ellis, Lawrence Olum, Seth Sinovic … DC: Fabian Espindola, Lewis Neal, Davy Arnaud, Chris Korb, Perry Kitchen
DISABLED LIST: KC: Peterson Joseph, Ike Opara, Chance Myers (season-ending injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (49 meetings): Sporting 20 wins (0 shootout), 73 goals … United 19 wins (1 shootout), 63 goals … Ties 10
AT KC (25 meetings): Sporting 14 wins (0 shootout), 47 goals … United 6 wins (1 shootout), 28 goals … Ties 5
FUTURE MATCH: 10/3: D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m. ET

2014 (MLS)
5/31: DC 1, KC 0 (Espindola 28)

  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Fabian Espindola scored the game’s only goal in the first half to lead United to victory May 31 at RFK Stadium.
  • The first meeting victory snapped a seven-game undefeated streak for SKC in the series. The last D.C. victory had come 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: P10 W7 L3 T2 … Ben Olsen vs. KC: P8 W1 L6 T1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • The game's lone goal came in the 28th minute. After a cross skipped through the box, Fabian Espindola collected the ball with his back to goal on the right and from 25 yards out and struck an apparent cross back toward the far post, which Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg misjudged to allow the curling ball to find its way into the upper corner.
  • United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was credited with five saves in recording the clean sheet. United finished the game a man down after Alex Caskey was sent off in stoppage time.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-4-2): Bill Hamid - Chris Korb (Sean Franklin 34), Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell, Cristian Fernandez - Nick DeLeon (Alex Caskey 86; ejected 89), Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe - Eddie Johnson (Lewis Neal 68), Fabian Espindola.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Eric Kronberg - Igor Juliao, Kevin Ellis, Aurelien Collin (Erik Palmer-Brown 9), Seth Sinovic - Benny Feilhaber - Alex Martinez (Jimmy Medranda 66), Paulo Nagamura - Antonio Dovale, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson (Soony Saad 77).

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City returned to their winning ways in impressive fashion, rolling to a 4-1 win against Toronto FC on Saturday evening at Sporting Park. Sporting lead the Eastern Conference and are tied atop the MLS overall table with 42 points from 24 games.

LAST MATCH

  • Sporting were ahead by two goals from the penalty spot before the game was barely a half-hour old. First, Jackson brought down Benny Feilhaber with a bad tackle near the end line, and referee Drew Fischer pointed to the spot. Dom Dwyer converted the penalty with a drive into the roof of the net in the 18th minute.
  • Dwyer doubled the lead in the 32nd minute, this time after winning the spot kick himself. TFC defender Doneil Henry chopped down Dwyer just outside the six-yard box, and this time Dwyer put his attempt low and inside the right post.
  • The Reds pulled a goal back early in first-half stoppage time. Dominic Oduro found himself with room at the top right corner of the penalty area and sent a ball to the near post, where Gilberto back-heeled it past SKC 'keeper Jon Kempin with a nifty finish.
  • Sporting iced the game in the 64th minute. Graham Zusi's corner kick popped out of a crowd and fell to Soony Saad outside the area, and he collected the ball and teed it up in one motion, driving it through traffic and past TFC 'keeper Joe Bendik to make it 3-1.
  • SKC finished the scoring in the 77th minute on yet another set piece. Saad this time deflected a Zusi corner kick on to a sliding C.J. Sapong at the back post, and he slid in to knock it home from close range.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made four changes to the team that fell 2-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. Jon Kempin came in between the posts for the injured Andy Gruenebaum, and Lawrence Olum, Sal Zizzo and Soony Saad came into the team in place of Jorge Claros, Mikey Lopez and Jacob Peterson.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jon Kempin - Igor Juliao, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Lawrence Olum - Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (Jorge Claros 73) - Sal Zizzo (C.J. Sapong 67), Dom Dwyer (Claudio Bieler 80), Soony Saad.

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting won for the first time following a draw and a loss, after seeing their eight-game undefeated run put to an end in the 2-0 loss at Vancouver the week before.
  • “This team has the mentality that we aren’t going to put that kind of performance in on a regular basis. That’s just not the mentality of the group,” said SKC head coach Peter Vermes. “When we do what we did against Vancouver, everybody knows that it’s not our team. So we want to get back on it quickly, and that’s what I like about this group ñ they turn it around quickly and they all have a very good mentality.”
  • Homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin made his first MLS start and came away a winner, a week after stopping a penalty kick after coming on in his league debut following injuries to Andy Gruenebaum and Eric Kronberg.
  • “A few times he came out on some crosses and I was wondering where he was going. But he’s getting a feel for the game and he did excellent. You look at the different people who have played in our lineup throughout the season, and everyone’s contributed. He’s now a big contribution to that,” said Vermes.
  • Dom Dwyer scored his first goals since July 12, netting his 15th and 16th of season (both on penalty kicks). It was Dwyer’s fifth two-goal this season; he is now second in the MLS Golden Boot standings, two goals behind New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips.
  • “I think I was trying to force it. I was definitely frustrated, and it’s tough when you lose games. That’s when your frustration comes out,” said Dwyer. “But this week I had a bit of time to refocus and get things together. Hopefully we’re back to the start of more good things.”
  • Sal Zizzo made his first appearance since July 6, playing 67 minutes in a right-wing role. Soony Saad also returned to the starting lineup after coming off the substitutes’ bench in three consecutive league games, and scored his second goal of the season, his first since June 6.
  • “We put in a very convincing performance all-around, and the scoreline reflects that. We like to win at home, especially getting a lot of goals to entertain the fans,” Saad said. “There were a lot of good things in this game, especially coming after the loss to Vancouver. We’ve already established that we’re the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, and that’s why we’re on top.”
  • Sporting scored two goals from corner kicks, and have scored five goals from corners, tied for second in MLS this season (behind Real Salt Lake’s seven). They have scored seven goals from set-piece situations, tied for fourth in MLS (FC Dallas leads with 10).
  • On Tuesday, Sporting kicked off their CONCACAF Champions League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Real Esteli at Estadio Independencia in Esteli, Nicaragua. Antonio Dovale scored the lone Sporting goal with a masterful free kick in the 16th minute, after an own goal gave the Central American side an early lead.
  • Here’s the Sporting team: Jon Kempin; Kevin Ellis, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum, Jorge Claros, Graham Zusi (Benny Feilhaber 67); Toni Dovale (Sal Zizzo 57), C.J. Sapong, Soony Saad (Dom Dwyer 73)

D.C. UNITED
D.C. United put an end to their two-game losing slide in emphatic fashion, cruising to a 4-2 win against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday evening at RFK Stadium. United are in second place in the Eastern Conference with 40 points from 23 games.

LAST MATCH

  • United took the lead just 13 minutes in. Left back Taylor Kemp played a lovely through ball with the outside of his right foot to a streaking Luis Silva, who cut back before chipping his effort over the outstretched arms of Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin.
  • The Rapids were level, though, in the 52rd minute through a stunning goal. Colorado midfielder Jared Watts headed a clearance toward Dillon Serna, who struck an absolutely spectacular volley up and over United goalkeeper Bill Hamid from all of 30 yards out.
  • But United regained the lead in the 66th minute when Sean Franklin collected a loose ball just outside the area, finding Silva just outside the six, and he slotted the ball into the side netting at the far post.
  • United made it 3-0 in the 81st minute when Kemp embarked on a 40-yard run on the left sideline before driving a low cross to Chris Rolfe, who hammered a low attempt home from the edge of the box. Just five minutes, Fabian Espindola got United’s fourth, smashing home a David Estrada pass from 17 yards out in the heart of the box.
  • Colorado pulled a goal back in stoppage time when Deshorn Brown headed home at the goal line on a Dillon Powers ball looped over Hamid, but it was too little, too late.
  • United head coach Ben Olsen made three changes to the team that fell 3-0 to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. Taylor Kemp came into the back four for Chris Korb, Perry Kitchen came back into the midfield in place of Jared Jeffrey, and Fabian Espindola started up top in place of the suspended Eddie Johnson.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-4-1-1): Bill Hamid - Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp - Nick DeLeon (Alex Caskey 87), Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe (David Estrada 84) - Luis Silva (Lewis Neal 73) - Fabian Espindola.

TEAM NEWS

  • D.C. United rebounded from their first consecutive losses since the opening two games of the season, winning their fifth game in the last seven matches.
  • “It was extremely important to win this game. All our home games from here on out are crucial, and we have put ourselves in a good spot. If we continue to take care of winning at home we will be in good shape,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “Saying that, we would like to go on the road and pick up some points. It’s not going to be easy; there is a lot of travel and tough opponents. But again, as we get bodies back I’m hopeful we can go on the road and get some points.”
  • Luis Silva scored a pair of goals, his first since July 20. He has all seven of his goals this season in a nine-game span since June 11, when he scored a hat trick against Montreal.
  • Fabian Espindola made his first start since June 11, when he was forced off at halftime with a knee injury that kept him out of the next six league contests. Espindola scored his eighth goal of the season, his first since May 31, when he had scored in three consecutive games.
  • “It’s unbelievable to have him back. He’s just relentless. I’m just glad he’s on our team,” said Olsen. “Playing that nine role on the field, he’s not always the biggest and strongest, but he’s an absolute handful. He just wills himself to succeed. It was a pretty impressive performance. Overall it was a great night for him.”
  • Espindola and Silva formed the front two for United from the start for a sixth match this season. The pair have been on the field together for 442 minutes this season; when they have started the same game, Silva has scored five times, while Espindola has contributed two goals and three assists.
  • “[Espindola and I] understand each other pretty well,” Silva said. “If I stay high, he drops. If he stays high, I drop. We share the work defensively and offensively as well, so I think that helps a lot.” Added Olsen: “I think sometimes when you are tight with someone, it translates onto the field. I think they have a good relationship in the locker room and outside of the game. I think they just have an understanding.”
  • Said Espindola: “It’s totally different playing with Silva than it is playing with EJ. With Luis, you want to put the ball at his feet or find him for a combination; with EJ, it’s totally the opposite. You can put the ball anywhere near him, he’ll make use of his strength to find it. But both of them are great players. Luis is doing great work. I can hear him all the time from behind me, he tells me all the time where he’s at when I can’t see him – wide left, man on, turn, all that helps a lot.”
  • Making his second MLS start this season, Taylor Kemp recorded his first two career assists, in his 13th career MLS appearance. “I’m extremely happy for him. It’s just a matter of him believing in the tools that he has, because they’re there. [That game] was a big step for him,” said Olsen.
  • Making his second appearance with United following his acquisition from Seattle Sounders FC, David Estrada recorded the first assist of his MLS career. He has scored five goals. “There’s no better way to get in and gel than by coming on and helping out teammates. It will help his relationship and getting incorporated with the team,” said Olsen.
  • On Wednesday, United got their CONCACAF Champions League started off on the right foot with a 1-0 win against Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC at RFK Stadium. Eddie Johnson scored the game’s lone goal after just five minutes.
  • Here’s the United team: Joe Willis; Alex Caskey, Kofi Opare, Conor Shanosky, Nana Attakora; Kyle Porter (Luis Silva 80), Lewis Neal, Jared Jeffrey, Collin Martin (Taylor Kemp 70); David Estrada, Eddie Johnson