It was ugly, but gloriously ugly. United's defensive, physical, and scrappy style of play was in full force after Fabian Espindola's 28th minute goal. Sporting Kansas City maintained their possession-based style even without the likes of Graham Zusi, Oriol Rosell, Matt Bieler, and Chance Myers. But ultimately couldn't break down United's formidable defense. Some may desire United to be more attacking, but this is the best way to play with the current set of players available, and that's most important. This is a Ben Olsen team, and although it isn't pretty it's better to have an identity that suits the squad. Would I like the team to be a goal-scoring juggernaut? Sure, but the defensive style is bringing in results, and that's more then good enough. Plus, it's kind of fun to play the villain, just look at Peter Vermes' post-match comments. Lovely. Here are your player ratings.
Bill Hamid: 7.5
Hamid kept a clean sheet without ever being truly tested, which is the best kind of clean sheet in my mind. With the back line's dogged work in front of him, Hamid had the job of keeping calm and claiming the ball when he had too. A 7 performance with an added .5 for the clean sheet.
Chris Korb: 6.5
Korb had a relatively nervy start to the game before providing the assist for Espindola's chip. The injury was unfortunate but did introduce Sean Franklin back into the side. As of now I would still shift Korb to the left, but with this injury Christian could remain in the starting role for a little while longer.
Even with the numerous injuries this Sporting KC attack still frightened me. Dom Dwyer has had a superb season, and his pace seemed primed to give Boswell & Parke fits all game. Needless to say that didn't happen. Boswell kept Dwyer in front of him superbly, and followed his darting runs in the box as well. It's an important to note that Sporting's increased possession caused for less chances on the counter, but it also meant Boswell & Parke had to stay under pressure throughout most of the game.
Same as Boswell this week.
I don't think you can remove the crazy from Christian's game. But his showing against the Sporks shows how it could be curbed. Nothing fancy in the back, keep the passing simple, and try to whip the ball in as soon as the chance arrives. As I said in Chris Korb's ratings, I still believe Korb is the better option on the left, but if Christian can keep the mistakes out of his game at the back then he could begin to convince me otherwise.
Perry Kitchen: 7.5
After the first 25 minutes I had much of some complaints I often have for Kitchen: Quality defense and workrate, but not as commanding as he could be. But as the game wore on Perry grew more into his defensive role, working with Arnaud to keep SKC's midfield from passing around them. Kitchen defensive skills are absolutely superb, and if this team forges on with a defense-first mentality then Kitchen will need to have more performances like tonight.
Davy Arnaud: 8
It remains to be seen if veterans like Arnaud, Boswell, and Parke will be able to keep their levels of play up as we progress into the season. Arnaud was superb again in the midfield, battling with the same high-energy style that has made him Ben Olsen's preferred partner to Perry Kitchen. United's impending fixture congestion will mean required rests for Arnaud, so finding a replacement for his energy will be crucial.
Chris Rolfe: 6
Clean touches as always but couldn't get involved in the game, mainly down to United's style of play. With Eddie Johnson's continued struggles, I could see Olsen moving Rolfe up to forward, dropping EJ, and moving Lewis Neal to left wing. It takes guts to bench a DP, but that would be United's best lineup.
Nick DeLeon: 5.5
Had a quality pass to EJ early in the first half but faded afterwards. I find myself continually disappointed with DeLeon's performances, it seems like the confidence of his earlier seasons has drifted away somewhat. He needs a breakout game, badly.
Fabian Espindola: 9
The goal was crucial, and represented the moments of quality needed if United is going to continue playing a more defensive style. However, as per usual with Espindola it goes beyond the goal, his work rate on offense and defense is beginning to embody what this team is about. Espindola has always been capable of special things, but his commitment to the team this season is something I haven't seen since his earlier Real Salt Lake years.
Eddie Johnson: 5
EJ is a terrible fit for Ben Olsen's system. Even if United have an attacking edge in a match there still won't be an emphasis on crossing, which there was in Seattle. EJ needs service more than most strikers in the league, without it he's reduced to simple passes and the occasional chance on the break. EJ has many good qualities, a high work rate isn't one of them, and that could soon land him outside of the starting line up.
Sean Franklin: 7.5
I couldn't imagine much of a tougher situation to make your return from injury in, but Franklin did well. Franklin prefers to attack, so it was impressive to see his focus and commitment at the back in a game like this. It's great to have him back, and it looks like a possible return to the back line that started the season.
Lewis Neal: 6.5
Came on and defended well.
Alex Caskey: 2.5
Guess we won't be seeing Caskey for a little while. Awful tackle that deserved the straight red card.