By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — D.C. United’s message to Sporting Kansas City Saturday was a clear one: “Not this time.”
Prior to Saturday, D.C. United hadn’t won in Kansas City since 2007. Not at Sporting Park; not even at the semi-professional baseball stadium that Sporting KC played at for three seasons. But Saturday night it was all D.C. as United thrashed Sporting KC 3-0 to take back the top spot in the MLS Eastern Conference.
United enjoyed perhaps the best seven-minute span in team history. The visitors struck three times between the 24th and 31st minutes off efforts from Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe, and Perry Kitchen to flatline what was a boisterous atmosphere at Sporting Park.
“D.C. was good on three counters, which our back four was absolutely horrendous on,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said after the match. “It’s one of those days where they came down on three routine plays and scored three goals. They should have scored six, maybe, with the number of chances that we gave them because of the way that we were organized in the back.
“There’s been a lot of credit given to our back four over a long period of time, but the way that they performed tonight, they’re also going to get some credit too — and that’s for giving up three goals.”
D.C. United manager Ben Olsen elected not to speak at the post-game press conference, but by the reaction of the visitor’s bench moments after the final whistle, it was a job well done.
Espindola opened the scoring in the 24th minute to give D.C. the early 1-0 lead. The shot followed an excellent pass from midfielder Luis Silva, setting Espindola up with his shot past goalkeeper Jon Kempin.
It was Espindola’s ninth goal on the season and his second against Sporting KC in 2014. The tally also marked the fourth consecutive year that the forward has scored at least nine goals.
Rolfe added to the D.C. lead four minutes later. Again it was Silva setting up the goal-scoring sequence, passing to Rolfe before the 31-year-old snuck an attempt past Kempin. The young goalkeeper got a touch on the ball but the shot was weighted enough to keep its trajectory at goal.
Kitchen concluded the scoring frenzy three minutes after United’s second goal. Rolfe passed to his midfielder on a perfect run behind the Sporting KC back four and Kitchen capitalized. The goal was met with a loud roar of “boos” from most of the 19,963 fans in attendance.
“I think we’d be lying if we say that we weren’t a little bit shellshocked,” Sporting KC defender and captain Matt Besler said about giving up three first-half goals. “You never expect to give up three goals at home.
“I think we get into halftime, we really sort it out, and come back in the second half and try and get the first one. That’s all you can do, try and get the first one, and if you get that one you can try and get the second.”
The first one never came, but that’s not to say that the chances weren’t there. Midfielder Graham Zusi hit the crossbar in the 60th minute on a 25-yard laser. A minute later forward Soony Saad came inches from brushing the inside of the post. And in the 73rd minute, forward Dom Dwyer connected on a cross with his head. All fantastic chances; all three resulting in zero goals.
The result is D.C. United’s (13-7-4) sixth win in eight matches. They’ll travel west to play the L.A. Galaxy in a midweek matchup. Sporting KC (12-7-6) fall to second in the Eastern Conference with the team’s second loss in three matches. They’ll attempt to rebound on Friday when they host the Houston Dynamo.
Watch the match highlights below: