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Late Sapong winner leads KC past D.C. United

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Photo by Jose L. Argueta/


WASHINGTON — C.J. Sapong may be a hometown kid worth bragging about. But on this night, he left a whole lot of D.C. fans awfully quiet.

The Sporting Kansas City striker and Northern Virginia native nodded home a Graham Zusi corner kick in second-half stoppage time Saturday, shocking the RFK Stadium faithful as the visitors walked away with a 1-0 win over D.C. United to open the 2012 season.

As Sapong was mobbed by his Kansas City teammates, he broke free from the celebration and looked to the pocket of fans who weren't in stunned silence: his local friends and family.

"It's a dream come true," said Sapong, who came on as a 75th-minute substitute. "To see all my family and friends in the stands cheering for me, to see people who were cheering for D.C. cheering for me, it's definitely fulfilling and just an amazing feeling."

Added Zusi: "He probably had 60 people on his guest list. It was awesome that he could do it in front of all those guys."

The strike, which came two minutes into stoppage time, was ample reward for a Kansas City team that controlled the match throughout against a disjointed United squad but couldn't find the right touch in the final third.

Kansas City's three-man midfield of Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza and Zusi did particularly well to dictate the tempo and deny service to United's central duo of Branko Bosovic and Perry Kitchen, halting many would-be D.C. attacks in their infancy.

"We were breaking them down all game," Sapong said. "It was just that final pass and that final shot."

Only the assertive play of goalkeeper Bill Hamid kept United even. The 21-year-old smothered a slew of low, long-range drives from Kansas City, repeatedly denying rebound opportunities.

Hamid's most-stunning stop came at the end of the first half, when he made an athletic kick save on Kei Kamara's point-blank header. Although it wasn't the breakthrough Kansas City wanted, it was the type of chance coach Peter Vermes asked his team to feed off going into the second half.

"We talked about it at halftime," Vermes said. "[I said], 'Look, we're finding good opportunities. We have to just keep pressing those opportunities. You can't get shy about it.'"

There were few such chances for United, as coach Ben Olsen's new-look attack failed to find much cohesion. In his debut, Designated Player signing Hamdi Salihi couldn't make much of an impact while often being isolated up top.

As a withdrawn forward, Dwayne De Rosario showed just a glimpse here and there of the form that earned him league MVP honors last year. Playing his first game in nearly a year after tearing a knee ligament, Boskovic showed little chemistry with Kitchen, a second-year player making a transition from defense to midfield.

Considering the amount of turnover from last year's team that missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year, United are undoubtedly a work in progress. On Saturday, that played right into the hands of Kansas City, a club that returned 10 starters from the squad that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season.

"We deserved it," centerback Aurelien Collin said of the win. "Sometimes, football is not fair. But tonight was fair."

NOTE: United have officially signed a lease term sheet with Events DC to play at RFK Stadium this season, a team spokesman said. While the agreement had been assumed for weeks, talks continued through the days leading up to United's home opener. A formal announcement is expected this week.


  1. I didn’t expect majestic play out of this match given the time of year. For starters, KC was on the road and was more inclined to counter (though they had so much of the play that at times their counters seems like possession-oriented soccer). It’s smart, road, tactical soccer and they do it well. It isn’t always beautiful but I have no problem with a team doing that. KC looked fine for this time of the season on the road other than poor finishing.

    As for DCU, it’s silly for people to say this is the worst team in the league. What you saw however was a team where none of those pieces have been on the same field at any time this preseason prior to the match. Not just 1 or 2 players, but the unit that started this game has always been missing at least 4 pieces (due to U23 camps, injuries, work visa). All teams have some of that. But DCU is truly a team that you aren’t going to know what they are for at least another 2-3 games. This wasn’t just a team at the start of the season, this was effectively a pickup team that is attempting to play the ball on the ground and play possession (so timing and knowing what runs off the ball players like to make ) are critical for that kind of game and it’s exactly what DCU doesn’t have right now.

  2. maybe we are talking about different things…I’m talking about CJ and Bunbury.
    january friendlies of 2012 in case you missed them.

  3. “my opinion is based in friendlies from last January and performance of both players from last season.”

    January of 2011? Last season?

    A little outdated don’t you think?

  4. It always amazes me that everytime DC loses it was a sloopy ugly game and neither side were very good. Lets look at things a little more objectively shall we?

    Sporting bossed the game almost from beginnig to end with close to 57% possession. They had the superior chances in quality and number. There passing looked good. First game on the road they would have been happy getting a draw in a game they convincingly dominated but got lucky and pulled out a stoppage time goal. All in all a great effort for an opening game on the road.

    DC had trouble stringing passes. DeRo was outplayed in the midfield and didn’t really show a nose for the ball. I expect he’ll get more into the flow as the season progresses. Salihi and Boskovic look like they’ll do fine if DC can find anyone to provide service for them. DC’s back line was strong but I’m not getting the Hamid lovefest just yet. He was spectacular at times like his save on Kamara just before the half which might also be tinged with a little luck. What bothered me about him was he looked like he could (and did several times) drop the ball at any minute.

    Any way on a scale of 1-10 I’d have to call the SKC performance a solid 7.5 and DC a 4.5.

  5. +1

    but the fact that he played for porter in college and Klinsi had him ahead of Sapong in the January friendlies, chances are he will make it for the U23 squad.

  6. hard game to watch even though the atmosphere was great. everyone was shaking their head at how bad we looked.

    it was hilarious before the game started because when the kids (10-14ish?) came out holding the flag, some chants started. the first one being the “barra brava” chant which consists of yelling “puta” and “hijos de puta” at them. the second was the “if i was an eagle” chant which has everyone yelling “$h!t on those b@s+@rds below”. everyone had a good laugh about it and i think the kids were wondering why a bunch of drunk people jumping up and down were cursing at them. haha

    then after people were getting annoyed with DC’s play, the chants turned to:

    “come on DC score a goal,
    it’s so f^ck!n% simple,
    put the ball into the net and blow the f^ck!n% whistle!”

  7. “shocking the RFK Stadium faithful”


    The RFK faithful are well aware of poor state of quality their club is in.

  8. The only thing better than DC losing is DC losing in stoppage time.

    Ok…the team being relocated would be pretty good too.

  9. You may call me a noob or whatever. But, I think that it is inappropriate to cast judgments on my conclusions when they are based on actual results that actually matter. You don’t, on the other hand, find the time or wherewithal to criticize the pundits or journalists who, based not any any actual results that actually matter, made pre-season power rankings and predicted what will happen in the standings 8 months from now. Why are their conclusions just fine? Can’t I analyze what they perceived about a team’s strength or standing, especially when it was based not on any actual meaningful game? We now have evidence of how a team is performing. Sure, one game is not the be all and end all, but Ives places a comments section after his posts precisely for fans to make observations. And, after viewing all 90+ minutes of the DCU/SKC game, I just didn’t think SKC was that good in that particular game. Perhaps it’s a blip. But, perhaps not. But, based on their poor performance, I think all the predictions made that they are the class of the East are suspect. Until I am shown otherwise by them, the pundits were wrong. I’m open to the fact that maybe I’m wrong and they still will be a superior team. But, last night, they did not impress me as much as the analysts told me they would.

  10. Galarcep blatter: LOL, what hilarious n00b thinks that the first MLS match for these two sides is indicatative of anything? SKC is likely the superior side, but don’t bring out your silly Internet judgments just yet.

  11. In Sapongs 15 minutes of work tonight; clearly showed that right now he should be starting over Bunbury. That might change throughout the season. Personally I think Sapong is better than Bunbury. I will be a tad shocked if Bunbury makes the U-23 team as well. Not convinced by him at all.

  12. I concur, game was sloppy, DCU may be the worst team in the league.

    I just can’t believe some folks think Teal is better than JC simply because he starts and JC is off the bench, let’s see how long this last.

  13. There’s no way we make it to 90+ without conceding a goal if McDonald isn’t involved. Overall, I think the time it took for SKC to score indicates how good many of our individuals are, but our lack of chances shows that formations and roles have to be evaluated.

    I’m not nearly as apocalyptic as most. To suggest that losing to SKC was unexpected in the first game with all the starters is ridiculous.

    We haven’t begun to play, and we almost got a draw. That’s promising.

  14. Well — McDonald blew it when it counted — his foul set up the free kick, which led to the winning corner kick. Also, his passes were comically bad.

  15. Agreed. Except for the central defense comments. McDonald was a leader, a true professional, worthy of his position. Jakovic is a whimsical dribbler and a poor excuse for a CB. Let’s get Dudar in there now.

    I think Bosko will always have qualities, but having watched dozens of MLS games, he has no idea what to do in this league. Sad.

  16. Yes, clearly, neither team has the slightest hope of improving from the first match of the season. Both teams are going to play this bad all year, and will accordingly finish low in the standings.

    How can you have such definitive judgement after ONE game?? The teams were feeling each other our for an entire half, and then SKC got quite a few good chances in the second half. As for DCU, we never really got in sync, but we had 7 players either playing different positions than they did last year, or who weren’t even on the team at all. This starting lineup has never played together before, including in the preseason. You can’t expect chemistry to form that quickly.

    Both these teams will play better than they did tonight. And both these teams will be in the playoffs.

  17. I’ll take issue with the comments above in this respect — I thought the first half was some terrific football. Pulsing, hard-fought. Even if few chances were being created, I thought it was largely down to good defense.

    The second half, on the other had was right nightmare from DC”s standpoint. I said coming in that everything depended on Dudar )who didn’t play), Boskovic (who was allegedly on the field for over 60 minutes) and Salihi, who didn’t get much service though he might have had one chance in the first half if he’d made a different run when Najar passed to him. So, we didn’t get to see Dudar at al, and the central defensive tandem was pretty horrible, especially in the second half. We didn’t get to see too much from Hamdi, but I saw glimmers. With Boskovic – I can’t stress how disappointed I was in him again. Perhaps, he’ll be more decisive against weaker competition, but he’s not the answer.

    Hamid, on the other hand, was magnificent. One of the best games I’ve seen a United ‘keeper play, except for his distribution, which really does need to be more decisive.

  18. Baltimore didn’t play a very good game at all. They looked like a complete mess. Hamid did a good job of keeping them in the game as long as he could. The kid has a bright future.

  19. Definitely an ugly game but I think SKC showed many reasons tonight why they’re a favorite. Obviously there was some rust out there, it’s March.

  20. Ugly game. Poor form all around. Don’t understand all the prognosticators who claim SKC is a favorite in the East. It took them 92 min and one lucky goal to beat a team so horribly inadequate at many levels. Only positive in game was Hamid. Kid’s a beast.


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