WASHINGTON - Despite looking like the second best team for 90 minutes against Sporting Kansas City, as the clock ticked past 90, it appeared that D.C. United would escape with a point to start the season.
That all fell apart in stoppage time, as C.J Sapong lost his marker on a corner, then headed home the 93rd-minute winner in a 1-0 victory over United at RFK Stadium on Saturday evening.
HIGHLIGHTS: DC vs KC
“Overall, it wasn’t the greatest night for us, soccer-wise,” United manager Ben Olsen said in a press conference after the match. “But we knew it wasn’t going to be. We were a little rusty, physically and mentally.”
Despite the rustiness, United managed to put forward a battling effort against a side many are pegging to be the class of the Eastern Conference. But what strength United showed in defense, they lacked going forward, a product of less than stellar cohesion amongst the attacking options in Black and Red.
“I thought we were pretty one dimensional as a whole,” Olsen said. “We wanted to go big early, but we needed to find forwards’ feet a little more, and then come back and switch the point of attack.”
United managed to create just one chance on target, and had to wait 83 minutes to do so. It came when Maicon Santos had a free kick from just over 30 yards saved – not exactly a gilt-edged chance.
With Hamdi Salihi making his debut for United, and Branko Boskovic returning from a long injury absence, the simple fact is that the chemistry to build chances against a disciplined defense just wasn’t there.
“[Chemistry] will take time,” United midfielder Chris Pontius told reporters after the game. “It takes a lot of practice, in getting to know players’ runs, and where they want to get the ball. I don’t expect it to be clicking next game, but that’s all a process of figuring things out.”
Salihi in particular was stranded up top for most of the game, despite playing alongside Dwayne De Rosario, before he was removed for Santos in the 80th minute.
Olsen had praise for his new Designated Player, but rued his side’s inability to find Salihi more in the final third.
“We didn’t help him [Salihi] out much,” Olsen said. “It’s our job to give him the right service to do his job. Andy [Najar] got in on his side several times, but our final ball was lacking, and that will get better.”