It has to be said that tonight's postgame press conference in the bowels of RFK Memorial Stadium was not full of champagne and high fives. But it was still a hell of a lot more upbeat than any other presser in the last two months. It's all thanks to D.C. United's losing streak busting 1-1 draw with the visiting Sporting Kansas City, who had owned United previously with five consecutive one-goal victories over the Black-and-Red.
Chris Pontius and Kyle Porter had something to say about both streaks, combining in the 65th minute to neutralize an Ethan White own goal five minutes before. The lone tally was enough to secure a draw and claim a point for United.
Ben Olsen's side returned to a 4-2-3-1 formation to counter the Sporks' aggressive 4-3-3, but with Nick DeLeon starting centrally in defensive midfield for the first time in his professional career. After the game, Olsen told the press that he had given Raphael Augusto, who has been partnering with Perry Kitchen in central midfield the last several weeks, the weekend off to deal with a family matter. The move worked well, with DeLeon's skill on the ball allowing him to play out of tight spaces and key the counter attack on a couple occasions. DeLeon also used his position to make late runs into the attack, which led to the first chance of the evening for los Capitalinos as Casey Townsend laid off MLS deubtant Taylor Kemp's cross for DeLeon. The Louisville product's long-range blast forced a punching save from Jimmy Nilesen and earned a corner.
Speaking of corner kicks, we always knew that United would be most likely to concede on just such a set piece, and so they did. At the hour mark, Graham Zusi's service off a corner found Ike Opara storming through the center of Bill Hamid's box. Opara's glancing header was off-target, but smacked (there's really no other word for it) Ethan White in the head and ricocheted past Hamid to give KC the lead. Opara, starting for the suspended Aurelien Collin, had a goal incorrectly called back for offside in the first half, but that's neither here nor there.
No, tonight, the theme was something Ben Olsen repeated in the postgame press conference: "It's better than a loss." Tonight was not the performance we want to see from this team - they still give too many shots, they aren't creating enough chances, and every opposing set piece feels like a nigh inevitable goal against - but it was better. We saw 90 minutes of focus, and we saw some ideas that have been lacking in the attack. And we got a point out of the ordeal.
United aren't there yet, but it's an improvement.