Team celebrates at D.C. United
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Recap: SKC finishes first in East with 1-0 win over DC

MLS Game #34
Saturday, October 22, 2011, 6:30 p.m. CT
English TV: KSMO-TV
Spanish TV: Time Warner Cable Ch. 5
Spanish Radio: La Gran D 1340 AM

RFK Stadium | Washington, D.C.
Weather: Partly cloudy, 56 degrees
Attendance: 15,965
Video: Match Highlights

Score                                                          1     2     F
Sporting Kansas City (13-9-12, 51 pts)           0     1     1
D.C. United (9-13-12, 39 pts)                         0     0     0      

Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic; Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza (Davy Arnaud 46), Graham Zusi; Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 68), Omar Bravo©

Subs not used: Eric Kronberg, Michael Harrington, Jeferson, Lawrence Olum, Soony Saad

D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard (Marc Burch 46), Chris Korb; Perry Kitchen, Andy Najar, Stephen King (Josh Wolff 75), Clyde Simms (Austin Da Luz 17), Santino Quaranta; Dwayne De Rosario

Subs not used: Joe Willis, Blake Brettschneider, Charlie Davies, Joseph Ngwenya

Stats:              KC      DC
Shots                27       15
Shots on Goal    4          3
Saves                3          3
Fouls                11         6
Offside              0          5
Corner Kicks     9          4

Misconduct Summary:
KC – Roger Espinoza (Caution; Tactical Foul) 26
DC – Perry Kitchen (Caution; Reckless Foul) 35

Scoring Summary:
KC – Matt Besler 2 (Omar Bravo 3) 54

Sporting Kansas City topped D.C. United by a 1-0 scoreline at RFK Stadium to seal top spot in the Eastern Conference heading in to the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs. All-Star defender Matt Besler scored the game’s only goal in the 54th minute to give Sporting Kansas City their first regular season conference title since 2004 and the fourth first-place finish in club history.

The win puts Sporting Kansas City on a total of 51 points, capping a turnaround that has seen them climb out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference by virtue of a run of just three losses in the team’s final 26 matches. Saturday’s win secures home field advantage at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park throughout the playoffs.

Sporting Kansas City created the game’s first chance in an entertaining first half that could have seen goals for either side. In the fourth minute of play, Kei Kamara picked out Omar Bravo making a run into the area with a pinpoint cross from the right flank. Bravo failed to hit the ball cleanly, however, as the ball skipped up in front of the Designated Player,forcing his effort over the top of goal.

League MVP candidate Dwayne De Rosario would earn the first chance of the match for the home side in the 23rd minute. From a corner, midfielder Santino Quaranta hit a short cross to the near post. De Rosario was first to meet the service, and fired a volley attempt just wide of the near post. The opportunity was the first of a number of chances both sides would make from set pieces throughout the half.

Eight minutes later, it was Quaranta and De Rosario hooking up again, this time from a free kick. Serving the ball from just inside the halfway line, Quaranta dropped his pass right outside the area. Quaranta’s ball was flicked on well by Stephen King and was collected by De Rosario, who attempted to loop a shot over the head of Jimmy Nielsen that fell just over the bar.

The chances for D.C. would continue for the next fifteen minutes. With seven minutes remaining in the first half, De Rosario threaded a pass through for King who had ran in behind the Sporting Kansas City backline. King put his shot low, but Nielsen did well to deny with his feet. Three minutes later, Nielsen came up huge again. The Danish goalkeeper failed to hold a low shot from Quaranta, but made himself big to deflect De Rosario’s rebound attempt over the bar.

After weathering the storm from D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City got the final chance of the half. From a corner, Aurelien Collin drifted free to the backpost to meet Graham Zusi’s cross, but couldn’t put his header on goal as the sides entered the break level at 0-0. In total, Sporting Kansas City took 16 shots throughout the first 45 minutes, their second highest total of the 2011 season.

The second half began with De Rosario smashing a free kick wide of goal, before Besler got the decisive goal for Sporting Kansas City in the game’s 54th minute. The sequence began when acorner from Zusi was headed strongly against the post by Kamara. The rebound attempt was then collected by Bravo, who poked a quick pass to Besler. With his back to goal, Besler turned and smashed a left-footed shot past Hamid to put Sporting in front for his second goal of the year.

Following the goal, both sides clamped down behind the ball before a wild finish that nearly saw D.C. United equalize in the final moments of the match. First, in the 88th minute, substitute forward C.J. Sapong took a pass from Davy Arnaud before turning into the penalty area and slamming a shot just wide of Hamid’s goal.

There would be only one more chance in the match, and it fell to former Kansas City forward Josh Wolff in the game’s final moment. With the ball on the left, midfielder Austin Da Luz drove a cross to the back post for an unmarked Andy Najar. Najar directed the ball back across goal for Wolff, who headed across the bar and out of play as Alex Prus whistled for the end of the match.

Sporting Kansas City will now await the highest seeded winner from this week’s MLS Cup Playoffs wild card round, to be played on Wednesday and/or Thursday. Sporting Kansas City will travel for the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal on Saturday, October 29th or Sunday, October 30th before hosting the decisive second leg at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Wednesday, November 2nd or Thursday, October 3rd.

Playoff tickets are currently on sale for Sporting Kansas City’s postseason match at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and can be purchased by calling 888-4KC-GOAL, visiting the LSP Box Offices or online at Ticketmaster.com.

 

FAST FACTS

• Sporting Kansas City finishes the 2011 regular season with a 13-9-12 record and in first place in the Eastern Conference.

• The first place finish is Sporting Kansas City’s fourth in club history, after previously finishing atop the Western Conference in 1997, 2000 and 2004.

• Sporting Kansas City becomes the first team in MLS history to finish in first place in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

• Sporting Kansas City secured home field advantage in the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs and will host the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal on either November 2nd or November 3rd.

• Sporting Kansas City will face the Wild Card winner with the highest seed. The one-game wild card round will be played October 26th and/or October 27th.

• Sporting Kansas City’s nine losses in 2011 are the second fewest in club history behind only the 2000 season (7). Further, Sporting Kansas City’s 51 points earned in 2011 are the second most in club history behind the 2000 season (57).

• Sporting Kansas City is 6-5-5 in regular season finales in the club’s history and have lost only once in the last 12 years.

• Sporting Kansas City is 16-18-9 all-time against D.C. United and 5-12-4 on the road in the series.

• Sporting Kansas City swept the season series against D.C. United for the first time since 1996, after previously posting a 1-0 victory at home against D.C. United in August.

• Sporting Kansas City won for the first time in their past four visits to RFK Stadium on Saturday.

• Sporting Kansas City has lost only three times in their past 26 MLS matches.

• D.C. United was held scoreless for the first time in eight matches on Saturday.

• Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made three saves on Saturday for his seventh shutout of the season. The team’s 2011 Most Valuable Player has 12 wins, tied for fourth most in MLS.

• Nielsen tied Mike Ammann for fourth place on Sporting Kansas City’s all-time games played by a goalkeeper chart with his 60th appearance on Saturday. He also moved into sole possession of fourth place on the club’s all-time games started (60) and minutes played (5,377) charts for goalkeepers. 

• Nielsen’s 31 games played in 2011 are the second most for a goalkeeper in club history, tying Tony Meola (2000).

• Nielsen’s 1.14 goals against average in 2011 is the third best single-season mark in club history, behind Tony Meola’s records set in 2000 (0.92) and 2004 (1.05).

• Nielsen’s career 1.15 goals against average leads all goalkeepers with at least 4,000minutes played in club history.

• Sporting Kansas City concluded the season with a +10 goal differential, the best margin in the Eastern Conference.

• Sporting Kansas City scored 50 goals this season, tied for second most among all MLSteams.

• The team’s 50 goals in 2011 are the fourth most in club history for a single season and most since 2002 (52).

• Sporting Kansas City’s 27 shots on Saturday set a single-season game high, after matching the previous mark in their last game with 24 shots against New York.

• Sporting Kansas City has attempted the most shots in MLS this season with 488.

• Sporting Kansas City striker C.J. Sapong played 22 minutes as a second-half substitute on Saturday and is the only Sporting Kansas City player to appear in all 34 MLS matches for the club this season.

• Sapong sets Sporting Kansas City’s club mark for most regular season appearances in a year with 34.

• Sapong leads all Major League Soccer rookies with points (10) and appearances (34) this season. His five goals is tied with Will Bruin for most among MLS rookies in 2011.

• Defender Matt Besler has started 27 straight MLS matches for Sporting Kansas City, the most of all current players. The 2011 MLS All-Star tied Preki and Bo Oshoniyi for third-most minutes played in a single season with 2,880 minutes.

• Besler’s goal in the 54th minute was the second of his season and career, after also scoring on March 26th at Chicago.

• Omar Bravo recorded his third assist of the season on the goal and his first assist since July 2nd at Portland.

• Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes made no changes to the starting lineup on Saturday from the team’s previous match, a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.

• Sporting Kansas City capitalized on a corner kick for the seventh time this season.

• Graham Zusi’s 97 corner kicks in 2011 are the second most in club history for a single-season behind Claudo Lopez in 2009 (123).

• Sporting Kansas City’s 488 shots this season, most in MLS, is the most for the club since the 1996 season (514).

• Sporting Kansas City committed more fouls (425) than they suffered (416) in 2011, marking the first time in 10 seasons that the team has been called for morefouls than they’ve earned.

• Sporting Kansas City strikers Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury and Omar Bravo finished tied for the team-lead with nine goals this season.

• Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi led the team with seven assists on the year.

• Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin set the club record for most yellow cards received in a season with 10 in 2011.

 

RECORD BREAKDOWN

• Sporting Kansas City went 4-5-5 when tied at halftime in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City went 12-3-2 when scoring the first goal in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City went 7-8-0 in one-goal matches in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City went 3-2-7 when scoring once in MLS matches this season and 6-0-3 when keeping a clean sheet.

• Sporting Kansas City went 13-6-11 when wear all-Sporting Blue uniforms in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City went 13-2-1 when leading at the 75th minute in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City went 10-4-8 when outshooting opponents in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City went 11-8-12 in games played at or after 5pm in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City won for the first time in the Eastern time zone on Saturday andwent 1-3-2 in games played in the Eastern time zone this season.

• Sporting Kansas City went 6-4-6 against the Eastern Conference in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City is 2-0-1 this month and 13-10-10 all-time in October.

• Sporting Kansas City is 12-7-11 on natural grass playing surfaces this season.

• Sporting Kansas City is 5-7-7 when the temperature is below 75 degrees at kickoff in2011.

• Sporting Kansas City is 12-9-8 on KSMO-TV in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City went 4-7-6 on the road in 2011.

• Sporting Kansas City is 63-127-57 on the road in club history and 194-199-100 overall all-time.

• Sporting Kansas City is 11-2-11 in matches that defender Chance Myers starts in 2011, and 11-3-6 in matches that defender Seth Sinovic starts in 2011.

• D.C. United Manager Ben Olsen is now 0-2-0 all-time against Sporting Kansas City.