Although they have done it several times this year, I still find myself amazed at how well DC United can absorb early pressure from an opponent and quickly change the tide of the match behind their incredibly efficient striking. Of course, having the brick wall known as Bill Hamid in goal certainly helps.
Sporting Kansas City opened the match tonight with a great deal of pressure from their biggest names up front. Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, and Benny Feilhaber all had legitimate scoring chances for Sporting KC in the first ten minutes of the match and despite their inability to finish, it appeared that DC United would be in for a long night. Would the pressure of a top flight club like Sporting KC lead to another troublesome night like the one in Salt Lake a few weeks ago? In a word, No.
Fabian Espindola took the ball to the top left corner of the 18 yard box in the 24th minute and blasted a low hard shot past Sporting KC goalkeeper Jon Kempin and into the right corner of the net. The flood gates were officially opened. Chris Rolfe would quickly double DC’s lead four minutes later. Three more minutes and Perry Kitchen officially made the first half a blowout with another goal for United. Three shots on goal and three goals.
Sporting KC were clearly stunned as DC United took a 3-0 lead into the half. DC United continued to handle the pressure of Sporting KC throughout the second half with the same steadiness that has become a staple of the team this year. Hamid’s improvement and reliability certainly contributes to the calm demeanor of the DC back line but a good deal of credit must also go to head coach Ben Olsen.
Yes, the team did add several players in the off-season, including tonight’s goal scorers Espindola and Kitchen, but still many players were members of last year’s three win squad. It would be very easy at any point in this season when the pressure is on for this team to falter and fall back into the habit of losing.
United could easily panic and make mistakes leading to early deficits and get discouraged. They could easily have become another marquee club to fall victim to the cycle of losing and spent another year at the bottom of the table. It has happened before to teams across all sports, especially those that found success in the early years of a league. It is more difficult to find a team that has not gone through an extended period of failure than to find champions that have.
However, DC United has refused to fall prey to such failures at this time. Instead, DC United holds steady and plays with an undeniable trust in each other. There is no panic, only calm. There is no indecision, only efficiency. Poor plays, bad games, or tough weeks seem not to linger in the minds of the DC players. This squad is focused and playing some terrific soccer at the right time. This squad is also now the leader in the race for the Supporters Shield and the top team in the Eastern Conference. Vamos United!
DC United 3 – 0 Sporting Kansas City
24th’ Goal DCU Fabian Espindola assisted by Luis Silva
28th’ Goal DCU Chris Rolfe assisted by Luis Silva
31st’ Goal DCU Perry Kitchen assisted by Chris Rolfe
61st’ Yellow card DCU Taylor Kemp for time wasting
83rd’ Yellow card SKC Igor Juliao for a foul