D.C. United had a torrid time even getting to Kansas City for Friday's night game against Sporting Kansas City. But after a whirlwind 24 hours, and further delays during the game itself, United picked up all three points at Children's Mercy Park after new signing Alhaji Kamara supplied the game's only tally in a 1-0 win. It was United's first road win of the season, and pushed them back above the red line for the time being.
Kamara had been in the game for just 33 seconds when he rose up and challenged Tim Melia for a deep cross by left back Taylor Kemp. With Melia failing to gain control after colliding with Kamara and KC defender Kevin Ellis, the ball fell invitingly for Kamara. The Sierre Leone international made no mistake with the his first MLS touch, lashing the ball into the empty net to give the visitors a valuable win.
Ben Olsen had to deal with the absence of Patrick Nyarko, out with a concussion for the second time this season, as well as international call-ups for Steve Birnbaum and Alvaro Saborio and the continued absence of Chris Rolfe. But at the other end, Bill Hamid was on the field for his first appearance in 2016, taking over in goal after Travis Worra had filled in admirably for much of the season.
On Thursday, United weren't able to get directly to Kansas City from Washington, D.C., with bad weather forcing their plane to divert to Chicago. A connecting flight later that night was cancelled, and United eventually chartered a plane on Friday, arriving in Kansas just five hours before the original 6pm local kickoff time. Between United's delayed trip and the threat of more inclement weather, that kickoff time was pushed back two and a half hours.
Once the game kicked off, it took a while for the two teams to really get going. Sporting had the first chance of the game, as left back Jimmy Medranda was able to get down the flank, and send a cross into the box. The service eluded several United defenders, but Dom Dwyer was unable to guide his header on target, with Hamid diving to cover his post.
Ike Opara just missed getting on the end of a free kick by Brad Davis at the far post in the 9th minute, before another Davis free kick was cleared out just in time with Saad Abdul-Salaam lurking to apply the final touch.
Four minutes later, Kansas City had a good look to go ahead through Davis, but the former Houston Dynamo midfielder mis-hit a shot in the box. Sporting quickly moved the ball from left to right in United's half, with Davis finding Jacob Peterson on the right. Peterson then played it back to Davis in the box, allowing Davis to get the ball on his favored left foot, but the veteran fired over the bar from a promising position.
United had a penalty shout in the 20th minute turned down by referee Alan Kelly, as Nick DeLeon went down in the box just before he could get a shot away. Marcelo Sarvas chipped a ball over the back line for DeLeon, whose smart run put him into the box. Opara arrived to make a tackle but went through DeLeon to stop the shot; Kelly did not so much as take a half-second to consider a spot kick.
Luciano Acosta had the ball in back of the net in the 28th minute, but the little Argentinian was a full yard offside in running onto DeLeon's leading pass. And then Espindola, in his first start since a hamstring injury a month ago, nearly picked out Acosta with an early ball from the halfway line only for Opara's last-ditch tackle to interfere.
Hamid, in his first appearance since knee surgery in January, was called upon to make his first save in the 38th minute. After United scrambled to clear out a pass in front of goal for a corner, Lawrence Olum rose up to win a header, forcing Hamid to palm away the bouncing shot at the post. The subsequent corner bounced through the box to Olum again, but this time the Kenyan international got a good strike on the half volley from 15 yards out, only for the ball to land on the roof of the net.
The storms that were rumored to be in the area stayed away for the entirety of the first half. But as the teams headed in for the break, the skies opened up, and several lightning strikes kept the game delayed for over an hour before play resumed. Though the field at Children's Mercy Park drained well despite the heavy rain, footing became a problem for both sides in the second half, forcing players to adjust in the slippery conditions.
Chances in the second half were few and far between, but Benny Feilhaber, who was introduced at the start of the second half, had the first look, firing wide at the near post, when he had more of the goal to aim for.
United then had two good looks at goal themselves, but on both occasions, they were ruled offside. First up, Acosta and Espindola combined in the 49th minute. Acosta passed back to Espindola near the corner of the box, before Espindola took aim towards goal. The shot was curling away from the goal, but Lamar Neagle tried to redirect the ball on the doorstep. Neagle couldn't square himself to goal, though, and in any case the offside flag would have nullified a goal.
Two minutes later, Kofi Opare, up for a corner, was called offside as he tried to latch on Acosta's ball into the box from a short corner.
The weather continued to play a factor, as both teams struggled to create many good looks during the second half. Davis couldn't get a shot on target for Sporting in the 61st minute, before both Jared Jeffrey and Marcelo tried their luck from long distance to no avail. Dwyer headed wide in the 81st minute, with the game apparently destined for a scoreless draw.
But Kamara changed all that with his goal in the 86th minute. Following a throw-in from DeLeon, Taylor Kemp played a hopeful ball into the box from deep on the left hand side. Kamara went up against Melia and Ellis to challenge for the ball. Melia failed to claim the cross, perhaps due to Kamara's enthusiastic move to get a header in, and the ball dropped right to the feet of United's newest signing. That allowed Kamara to send a first timed shot into the net, much to the delight of the traveling support. It also quite plainly left Kamara overjoyed as he wheeled away to celebrate.
There was one late chance for Kansas City to get a point from the game, but Hamid - as he has done so often in the past - made a spectacular save of Kevin Ellis in the 88th minute. A free kick into the box wasn't cleared by United, and following a potential foul by Chance Myers, the ball popped up for Ellis, who snapped a shot on frame. Hamid showed his characteristic fast reflexes to get a palm up and block the shot. The ball fell toward Myers, but United sub Rob Vincent's lunging effort was just enough to block the shot. United dealt with one final corner kick before Kelly signaled the end of the game.
The Black-and-Red return to the field on Wednesday, hosting the Seattle Sounders at RFK Stadium.