Sporting Kansas City snapped D.C. United's five-game home winning streak at RFK Stadium on Friday with a 0-0 draw against the Eastern Conference leaders. Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum matched his career-high with seven saves in the shutout as Sporting KC earned their first road draw of the season and moved into second place in the East with three games remaining.
In a nationally televised match-up on NBCSN, Sporting Kansas City provided the game's first scoring opportunity in the fourth minute. Graham Zusi's free kick from the right flank found Kevin Ellis unmarked six yards out at the backpost, however the homegrown defender elected to direct his header across the goalmouth rather than on target.
Less than five minutes later, fellow homegrown player Bill Hamid was called into action as the D.C. United goalkeeper rushed to the edge of the penalty area to intercept a well-weighted pass from Lawrence Olum out of the midfield and intended for Dom Dwyer. Hamid would go on to make three saves in the match to for his League-leading 10th shutout of the season.
His first two saves came on shots from Antonio Dovale, who set a personal season-high with four shots on Friday. The Spaniard let loose an attempt from 30 yards out in the 38th minute that was held by Hamid and tried again from a similar distance in the 47th minute. The shot was deflected by D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum and forced Hamid to reach high to corral the effort.
D.C. United weren't without chances of their own, beginning in the 10th minute on a shot from Chris Pontius in his first start since October 2013. Matt Besler -- whose nine interceptions on Friday were the most by a Sporting KC player in an MLS match this season -- got a foot to the shot and Gruenebaum adjusted to make the stop.
Fabian Espindola was the persistent scoring threat for the home side with six shots in the draw. The Argentine broke free on the left wing in the 13th minute but pushed his shot well wide with Ellis chasing to recover. He did better in the 28th minute with a first-time, left-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box that was expertly blocked by Gruenebaum.
The Overland Park, Kansas native would go on to become the first Sporting KC player to record seven saves in an MLS match since Jimmy Nielsen in 2011. As part of the club's Shutout for Slices promotion with Papa John's, all Sporting KC fans can receive 50% off any regular price online order at local participating Papa John's retailers over the next two days by entering the code 'SPORTINGKC' online at PapaJohns.com.
Espindola came close once more in the 58th minute only to see the ensuing shot roll narrowly wide of the far post. Determined to do damage, the eight-year MLS veteran tried again to beat Gruenebaum two minutes later but the long-distance look bounced wide of frame. The errant aim would affect Silva, too, as his free kick in the 71st minute was inches away from curling inside the post on what would be D.C. United's last shot of the match.
Of the two sides, Sporting Kansas City looked the more likely to score in the game's late stages. Outside back Seth Sinovic sent a shot through traffic in the 74th minute in search of his first career regular season goal. Sinovic then played a pivotal part moments later in his side's best opportunity to claim the go-ahead goal on the night.
The Leawood, Kansas native lofted a left-footed cross to Dwyer beyond the back post and the Englishman placed his header into the path of C.J. Sapong just eight yards out from goal. Sapong snapped his header low and on target, however Hamid reacted well to drop down in time to make the save.
With the draw, D.C. United are the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a berth in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. Ben Olsen's club remains six points ahead of Sporting Kansas City after finishing in last place in 2013.
Sporting Kansas City will now return home to host rivals Chicago Fire at 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday, Oct. 10 at Sporting Park. A limited number of tickets are available for the match via Ticketmaster.com and the first 5,000 fans inside the stadium will receive Sporting KC ear buds courtesy of Pepsi.
Major League Soccer
Regular Season: Game 31
RFK Stadium | Washington, D.C.
Weather: 70 degrees and cloudy
|Sporting KC (13-11-7, 46 pts)||0||0||0|
|D.C. United (15-9-7, 52 pts)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Andy Gruenebaum; Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Igor Juliao; Lawrence Olum, Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi; C.J. Sapong, Dom Dwyer, Antonio Dovale (
Benny Feilhaber 78)
Subs Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Mikey Lopez, Jimmy Medranda, Soony Saad, Claudio Bieler, Sal Zizzo
D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Taylor Kemp, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Chris Korb; Chris Pontius (Lewis Neal 64), Davy Arnaud, Nick DeLeon, Sean Franklin; Luis Silva (Eddie Johnson 72), Fabian Espindola
Subs Not Used: Joe Willis, Kofi Opare, Jared Jeffrey, Samuel Inkoom, David Estrada
|Shots on Goal||3||7|
SKC -- Seth Sinovic (caution; reckless foul) 30
DC -- Davy Arnaud (caution; persistent infringement) 46+
SKC -- Paulo Nagamura (caution; reckless tackle) 52
SKC -- Dom Dwyer (caution; dissent) 55