For at least another 21 hours or so, one team sits alone at the top of MLS.
With tons of talk in and around the league this week about Supporters Shield contenders, much has been made of surging teams FC Dallas and RSL, who are tied with the Seattle Sounders at 42 points atop the Western Conference while Sporting Kansas City, also on 42 points, have been leaders in the East for most of the season.
Very little thought has been afforded to D.C. United, aside from the predictable comments from all pundits that the team has made an incredible turnaround from a history making awful 2013 campaign.
Perhaps now people will sit up and notice the Black-and-Red. United went into Sporting Park and put a 3-0 beat down on SKC tonight to jump into first place in the East behind three goals in a seven-minute onslaught from Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe and Perry Kitchen.
The win for United (13-7-4, 43 points) was their first ever at Sporting Park in five attempts and their first against Sporting on the road since 2007. Coming off back-to-back drubbings on the road, one would hardly have expected United to put forth such an effort, particularly during the busiest stretch of the season.
United was coming off a 1-0 home win in their CONCACAF Champions League opener on Wednesday night while Sporting struggled to a 1-1 draw away in Nicaragua on Tuesday, a game in which Sporting head coach Peter Vermes called on eight of his normal starters while Ben Olsen rolled out a reserve-laden squad.
The difference in philosophies seemed to pay a huge dividend for United as they seemed the more energetic side for most of the evening. United was on the back foot for first twenty minutes or so but took the lead against the run of play in the 24th minute.
Luis Silva played a seemingly harmless ball to Espindola in the corner where he juked Aurelien Collin and made his way to the top corner of the penalty area. Using his weaker right foot, Espindola’s worm burner skipped along the grass and curled it’s way into the far side of the goal to give United the 1-0 lead. Espindola’s goal was his team-leading 9th of the season and gave tallies in two straight league games.
Just four minutes later, United would double their lead when Chris Rolfe beat Sporting’s high defensive line and went in alone and just got his shot past Sporting goalkeeper John Kempin. For Rolfe it was his sixth goal of the year, also scoring in back-to-back games, and it was Silva’s second assist of the night.
United ended all drama on the night when Perry Kitchen wrapped up the scoring just three minutes later. Again United victimized Sporting’s high line as Kitchen ghosted in behind Collin. As Collin caught up to Kitchen, the young midfielder cut back expertly on Collin and rifled his shot just inside the near post for an incredible 3-0 lead.
United was now tasked with simply seeing the remainder of the match out with staunch defending and they did just that. As a matter of fact United had numerous opportunities to extend the lead only to see the woodwork deny Nick DeLeon and substitute David Estrada.
Sporting created only a few chances throughout the match, the best coming off the foot of ex-Maryland and U.S. World Cup veteran Graham Zusi’s shot hitting the crossbar midway through the second half. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid picked up his sixth shutout of the season and second against Sporting this season.
United’s brutal schedule continues when they travel to California to play the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday night at 10:30 pm EST. The match will be shown live on Comcast SportsNet.