United Falls to Sporting KC on Late Goal

Improvement seen by DC, but offense still lacking in loss to SKC
by Peter Muller   |   Tuesday, April 09, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

For 89 minutes on Friday night at Sporting Park in Kansas City, DC United played a tight, compact game with Sporting KC and appeared likely to pick up a well-earned point in the standings for its efforts. With attacking threats Dwayne De Rosario and Nick DeLeon absent due to injury, a scoreless tie on the road would have seemed like a victory to United.

But a momentary defensive letdown allowed Claudio Bieler to score his 4th goal of the year and sent United to a 1-0 defeat before 18,988.

United manager Ben Olsen pledged to use a 2-week break to whip his team into shape following a lackluster home loss to Columbus Crew on March 23. Despite the loss he was pleased with his team’s performance.

“I thought it was a great effort from us tonight,” he said. “We had a long 2 weeks of getting back to some of our fundamentals and getting back to the right mentality to win games in this league. The way we went about the game was very good.”

United’s approach was to clog the middle of the field and slow Sporting’s dynamic offense, featuring the Argentine Bieler and U.S. international Graham Zusi.

“They wanted to really disrupt us in the middle of the park and try to take away the rhythm that we get as we play,” said KC manager Peter Vermes. “They took that away. They did a good job. They really clogged the middle.”

With Dejan Jakovic back from international duty with Canada, Olsen slid Daniel Woolard into the left fullback position and chose Chris Korb over James Riley on the right side. In midfield, he gave Rafael Augusto his first opportunity to play this year – pairing him with Perry Kitchen in a central role.

Sporting Kansas City dominated possession, holding the ball for nearly 60% of the game. But SKC had few scoring opportunities – with only 2 shots on goal all game – and United denied Sporting the space to unleash its free-flowing attack.

“We played well defensively and were compact, and they never really broke us down,” said Jakovic.

While United looked more composed on defense than in recent games, its offensive woes continued. United scored just 2 goals in 4 games this year, and was facing a Kansas City team that had not allowed a goal in its previous 3 games.

With De Rosario and DeLeon out of the lineup, United appears to have too few attacking options. Chris Pontius looked threatening on occasion and Rafael showed further indication of his potential. But Marcos Sanchez was rarely heard from and Lionard Pajoy continued his pattern of making the least out of United’s best opportunities.

On the night, United attempted just 4 shots - only one of which was on target – and earned just a single corner kick.

“Kansas City is a tough place to play, so I was generally happy with how things went,” said Pontius. “But I’d like to see us test the keeper at little bit more.”

United’s lack of offensive firepower leaves little room for error, and a momentary lapse was all Kansas City needed to nab the win at the end.

In the 89th minute, late substitute Soony Saad took the ball from Sanchez on the right, raced around Marcelo Saragosa to the end line and sent a cross into the box that Bieler one-timed past goalkeeper Bill Hamid into the back of net. In a matter of seconds, the hard work United had put in all night was rendered moot.

“(Bieler) did what forwards do,” said Olsen. “They find a chance and do well with it. Obviously, we’re extremely disappointed. I’m disappointed we didn’t come away with something.”

While Olsen can feel good about his team’s overall effort he’s got to find a way for his team to start scoring goals. Until United’s forwards start doing “what forwards do”, more disappointment lies ahead.

NEXT UP: April 13 – New York Red Bulls vs. DC United, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC, 7 p.m. EST, MLS Live.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.