If you were expecting a let down after Sporting KC played 120 minutes against Seattle Sounders FC in the US Open Cup, you couldn’t have been more wrong. No physical or emotional fatigue were apparent against DC United as the two sides squared off with a shot at first place in the Eastern Conference on the line.
Sporting would draw first blood in the 13th minute as Teal Bunbury would connect on a Graham Zusi header on a corner kick. Sporting won the corner on a long throw in from Matt Besler, a common occurrence. Bunbury had came very close moments before on an cross in open play that was barely too high to connect. Bunbury managed to get inside on Bill Hamid, but the DC United goal keeper was able to catch the cross.
Photos by Tommy Theis Courtesy of Sporting Reporting
DC United would only see 30% of the possession at the half, but they were able to convert a chance when Andy Najar took a speculative cross into the box that Nick DeLeon was able to get a touch on, Michael Harrington lost sight of the ball and got turned around, DeLeon was able to take a touch and place his finish past Jimmy Nielsen for the equalizer.
DC United made one substitution at halftime, Branko Boskovic for Marcelo Saragosa. DC had been dominated in possession and scoring opportunities in the first half and did not find much offensive rhythm.
The second half did not improve for DC United, in fact they were able to maintain their meager amount of possesion from 37% to 44%, but they were not able to turn possession into scoring chances.
Although the score was 2-1, the game was clearly dominated by Sporting KC. They had numerous scoring opportunities, got quality shots of Besler throw ins, and were quite unfortunate that they hit the frame multiple times, Graham Zusi was victimized twice before he was able to put one away. Sporting were able to play the entire width of the field, Kei Kamara showed exceptional range end to end and sideline to sideline.
There was a bit of a scuffle when Perry Kitchen was backing into Nielsen who was coming out to punch the ball away. Nielsen appeared to try and kick Kitchen, clearly annoyed that he was challenged by the United midfielder.
After the match Peter Vermes gave DC United a compliment on their strategy, ”They didn’t come to pack it in tonight and that’s rare when we play teams at home.” Given the personalities of the DC coach, it would have been shocking if Ben Olsen hadn’t played for the win with top of the Eastern Conference table at stake.
When asked about his team’s return to form Peter Vermes replied, “The season is very long in MLS, I think sometimes what happens is you can ride the wave, you can fall off the wave, the big thing is how fast you get back on it. I think that, if anything, we never lost any confidence in ourselves.”