An early goal from Felipe Gutierrez was the only tally that Sporting Kansas City needed on Saturday night, defeating D.C. United 1-0 at Children’s Mercy Park. Gutierrez’s goal in the 3rd minute, which might eventually be changed to an own goal credited to Frederic Brillant, was the result of catching United flatfooted out of the gate, something that has not been an issue so far this year.
And though SKC have had their issues defensively so far this campaign, having conceded at least two goals in each of their first four games, there was no answer from United in the final 87 minutes. Luciano Acosta had just about the best chance early on in the second half, but he somehow managed to clip a shot over the goal from the doorstep.
A week following a 3-1 loss to Columbus Crew SC, Head Coach Ben Olsen made just one change to the starting lineup. With his international contingent back, Olsen elected to start Ulises Segura over Ian Harkes in midfield, to partner Chris Durkin, who made his second consecutive start. Recent signing Dane Kelly made the bench for United, and made his debut late on, when he came on for Joseph Mora.
There was hardly a chance to settle down into the game before Sporting took the lead, thanks to Gutierrez’s fifth goal on the campaign. An attempted clearance from Nick DeLeon took a deflection off of Khiry Shelton, and the ball fell right to Gutierrez. The Chilean made his way into the box, and attempted to cross the ball into the middle. The cross took a deflection off of Brillant, and beat David Ousted to the near post, though Gutierrez was given credit for the goal.
United showed signs of life moments later, when a long ball was deflected into the box for Paul Arriola. The winger latched on, and shot from a tight angle, but keeper Tim Melia had come out to cut down the shooting lane, and forced a corner, which United couldn’t create any danger from.
Ousted, in the 19th minute, misplayed a corner kick from Graham Zusi that nearly netted Kansas City their second goal. Ilie Sanchez crossed the ball back in towards the middle after Ousted could only get a touch to the corner, but Ike Opara’s header was right at Ousted, who was able to recover to make the save.
Daniel Salloi got out on a counter attack in the 21st minute, and with space, worked his way towards the box. Seeing winger Johnny Russell on the other side of the box, Salloi laid the ball back to the top of the box, allowing Russell a crack at a first timed shot. Russell’s effort was mishit though, and weakly rolled into Ousted’s arms.
United last tested Melia with a shot on goal in the 33rd minute, after some nifty footwork from Yamil Asad in the box. A couple of stepovers, a feint around a defender, worked Asad open, but he tried to beat Melia at the near post, and the keeper was able to dive over to make a save.
Left back Jimmy Medranda nearly punished United with a second goal just before the half, as Roger Espinoza lifted a cross from the right side of the box to the left. Allowing the ball to bounce in front of him, Medranda hit a first timed effort on the half-volley, but his swerving effort blazed just over the bar, allowing United off the hook.
The Black-and-Red came out strong in the second half, but they created no better chance than the one Acosta had in the 47th minute. A ball into the box from Mora somehow fell to Acosta at the far post, getting by Medranda. Acosta had just Melia to beat, but with the keeper rushing out, Acosta tried to chip from five yards out, and the shot flew over the bar.
In the 58th minute, Shelton, who had made himself a menace to United’s defense all game long, created a chance from a misplay by Steve Birnbaum. Birnbaum couldn’t properly deal with a long ball, and Shelton quickly reacted, heading the ball into his own path. His left footed shot forced a save out of Ousted, as United dodged the danger, allowing them to stay in the game for the time being.
Two minutes later, United hit SKC on the counter, as Arriola pushed up quickly from midfield. Arriola fed the ball into the box for Darren Mattocks, who tried to touch the ball around Melia, instead of taking a shot on goal. But Melia was able to recover to cut down angles, and Mattocks won a corner kick, but United failed to capitalize on the resulting kick.
From there, United faded offensively, even as they brought on Zoltan Stieber, Patrick Mullins, and Kelly in hopes of finding at least a goal, to earn a point. Russell had two chances to seal the game, but his shot in the 63rd minute was deflected wide for a corner. And in the 84th minute, he got into the box with the ball, but a shot from a near impossible angle was saved by Ousted, and then the ball bounced off of Russell on it’s way out.
Substitute Gerso Fernades should have wrapped up all three points in stoppage time, as he rounded Ousted in the 92nd minute. But having to go wide forced an errant shot from Fernandes, as hit put his shot into the side netting.
With the loss, United currently have two points from their first five games. They have next weekend off, before they host the Crew in Annapolis, for their final home game until July 14th.