WASHINGTON, June 1, 2014 — Fabian Espindola’s super-strike was the difference as D.C. United ground out a 1-0 win over Major League Soccer champion Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium on Saturday night before 18,522.
With his seventh goal of the season the United talisman is certainly making up for Eddie Johnson’s lack of output. Johnson had another unproductive outing and was subbed with 22 minutes left on the clock.
Only a point separated the teams going into the game but with the win, United climbed back into second spot in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the leading New England Revolution.
United had an early look on goal but Nick DeLeon headed Espindola’s header straight into the arms of goalie Eric Kronberg. DeLeon then fed Johnson an excellent pass but Kronberg denied the striker a shot on goal.
While Sporting dominated the possession, United took the lead in the 28th minute on a magical effort from Espindola. The Argentine ran across the top of the 18-yard and let fly a looping left-footer to far corner. Kronberg was off his line expecting a cross and the ball sailed over him into the net.
In the post-game press conference, United coach Ben Olsen said Espindola had been sick all week and was throwing up on Wednesday.
“He is a warrior,” Olsen said.
Sporting was missing veterans Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, both with the U.S. World Cup team, and suffered an early injury when key defender Aurelien Collin left the field in the ninth minute. He was replaced by the only defender on the bench – 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown.
United had its problems too. Defender Sean Franklin had to replace the injured Chris Korb in the 34th minute.
Jeff Parke produced some excellent defending in the first half for United, stopping a Seth Sinovic effort which looked like a certain goal.
Sinovic came close again in the 55th minute but United goalie Bill Hamid was quick off his line to stop the shot.
Then Jacob Peterson came close with a glancing header in the 62nd minute as Kansas tried to get back into the game.
Espindola nearly got his second goal in the 69th minute but his shot went just inches wide of the far post.
“I’m very tired,” Espindola said after the game. “I don’t know is it because of [the illness] or because of Kansas City and the way they moved the ball. I’m so tired right now. I wasn’t able to train much and I think that was a big deal.”
Hamid again came up big in the second half to stop Benny Feilhaber’s shot at the near post. Sporting pulled out all the stops to grab a late goal but it looked to be United’s night.
“They were searching for the ball, and that’s generally how they play so it was good that the backline stayed strong and the midfielders stayed strong,” Olsen said. “We defended the box really well and we came out with three points.”
United’s victory was marred when substitute Alex Caskey – only on the field for three minutes – was red carded in stoppage time for a reckless tackle.
Next up for United is a game against the Columbus Crew as part of a double header with Spain vs. El Salvador at FED Ex Field June 7.
Fun Fact: D.C. United is the only MLS team with four active players who accomplished the 50 career goal mark – veteran’s Fabian Espindola, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe and Eddie Johnson.
The Player Ratings
Bill Hamid (6) – Didn’t have to do a lot but came up big on a few saves and coordinated well with his backline.
Chris Korb (5) – Had a mixed half-hour before leaving the field with an injury.
Bobby Boswell (6) – Continues to play well and keep the backline intact. His experience this season has really helped make Hamid’s job easier.
Jeff Parke (6) – Some excellent last second defending helped stop a certain Sporting goal in the first half.
Cristian Fernandez (6) – Played some nice passes but could have done better on a header when he was alone in the box.
Nick DeLeon (5.5) – Got in a good early header by played it straight into the goalies’ hands. Made a nice feed to Eddie Johnson but appears to be lacking confidence this season.
Perry Kitchen (6) – Gave up the ball in a dangerous spot and was lucky not to give KC a goal.
Davy Arnaud (6.5) – Fed some nice target crosses and was in good form. Good defensive work.
Chris Rolfe (6.5) – Produced some magical touches and won a vital free kick. He also tracked back to help out the defense.
Fabian Espindola (7) – Another good game for the Argentine resulting in a fine goal.
Eddie Johnson (5.5) – Played the ball back to often. He needs to run directly at goal more. Tried to earn a PK with a dive put should have taken the earlier shot.
Sean Franklin (6 ) – An early sub for Chris Korb and worked hard all night.
Lewis Neal (6) – Came on for Johnson and helped try and keep possession.
Caskey Came (NR) – Red card says it all.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email [email protected]