D.C. United’s Davy Arnaud and Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi played to a scoreless draw in their team’s match last night at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C in front of 19,308 soggy but boisterous fans. Photo: Tony Quinn.
The draw was enough to send United to the playoffs and still maintain at least a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference with just three matches to play. United garnered their 12th shutout of the season (their third against Sporting this season) and the 10th for Bill Hamid who was called upon to make three saves.
United completed a comeback from the single worst MLS season in history last year when they only won three matches all season long. United still has work to do to complete their “worst to first” effort but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment any further.
The visitors came out on the front foot and bossed the early portions of the game before United started to grab a hold of proceedings about twenty minutes in. United however had the best opportunities to score and should have taken an early lead but not for a nice save by Sporting goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum in the 28th minute on a rasping drive from Fabian Espindola after some nice set up play by Taylor Kemp and Luis Silva. Kemp stripped Sporting midfielder Antonio Dovale at midfield and raced past Igor Juliao before slipping a pass to Silva in the penalty area. With defenders quickly closing on Silva, he spotted Espindola free at the top of the box and the Argentine’s one-time blast through a thicket of defenders cannoned off Gruenebaum and out of play for a corner kick.
After the break the intensity and the tackling ramped up a few notches and United probably should have been awarded a penalty when Sporting defender Igor Juliao chopped down Chris Pontius in the 53rd minute. Pontius, making his first league start since September of 2013, had the inside edge on Juliao and was trying to bring down an Espindola cross when he caught Pontius in the thigh in midair. Referee Hilario Grajeda chose to make no call to the dismay of United’s lively crowd.
Both teams traded barbs back and forth but it seemed more and more likely heading to a goalless draw as the game drew to a close. United though had to tough it out after ceding a few semi-dangerous free kicks to Sporting only to see United’s defense come through as it has for most of the season, particularly at RFK.
Taking away the season-opening 3-0 loss to Columbus, United has allowed only 6 goals in the subsequent 14 league matches since then. United will close out their home portion of the season when they host the Chicago Fire on October 18th. Before that however is another trip to their House of Horrors – Houston next weekend. Houston is five points from the last playoff spot currently occupied by New York Red Bull. The two teams meet later today and a Red Bull win will push Houston to the brink of elimination. Houston also has a midweek trip to Toronto before facing the Black-and-Red next Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.