Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United battled to a scoreless draw to open the 2017 MLS regular season on Saturday at RFK Stadium.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia denied Marcelo Sarvas from the penalty spot en route to five total saves, while Bill Hamid made five stops of his own as a pair of MLS charter members split the points in Week 1.
With D.C. United slated to move into a new soccer-specific stadium next year, Sporting Kansas City’s final regular season contest at RFK Stadium saw Manager Peter Vermes’ men avoid defeat at the hallowed venue for the sixth time in seven visits.
Vermes' starting lineup included MLS debuts for holding midfielder Ilie and left winger Gerso, both of whom arrived in Kansas City this offseason after spending the last several years in Europe. Matt Besler donned the captain's armband — joining Graham Zusi, Ike Opara and Seth Sinovic in defense — while veterans Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza took advanced midfield roles. Dom Dwyer and Jimmy Medranda rounded out the attack, and Melia started between the posts.
A wild first 20 minutes saw D.C. threaten first when Jared Jeffrey created a turnover and picked out Patrick Mullins near the penalty spot. The forward teed up Julian Buescher for a first-time shot atop the box, but Ilie had retreated to make a crucial block near the goalmouth. Mullins tried his luck shortly thereafter, forcing Melia into a comfortable save.
The visitors were quick to gain strength as Gerso showed promising glimpses along the left wing. His teasing cross to Dwyer in the 10th minute was headed narrowly over the bar, then Hamid saved a blistering strike from the African three minutes later.
Feilhaber thought he had fired Sporting Kansas City into the lead in the 14th minute when he curled a brilliant free kick over a four-man wall, but Hamid dove at full extension to prevent the ball from nestling into the top left corner.
It was Melia’s turn to produce a splendid stop in the 17th minute. Against the run of play, D.C. was awarded a penalty when referee Robert Sibiga ruled the Sporting KC keeper to have tripped Buescher along the left endline. Sarvas struck the ensuing attempt low and hard, but Melia sprawled right to make the block and react quickly to smother Mullins’ rebound attempt.
Tempo lessened as the first half wore on, though Medranda tested Hamid just before halftime with a knuckling blast from long range.
Dwyer did well to elude multiple defenders and set up Medranda four minutes after the restart, but the Colombian’s effort was blocked on the edge of the box. Gerso was then denied a penalty claim in the 62nd minute when his attempted cross struck Sarvas’ right arm, but Sibiga waved for play to continue.
The hosts rued their misfortune in the 66th minute when three remarkable defensive interventions kept the match goalless. The stunning sequence started when Lloyd Sam’s corner kick was glanced to the far post and headed off the goalline by Medranda. Nick DeLeon was on hand to volley the rebound on frame, but Dwyer was stationed at the opposite post to nod clear just as heroically.
The loose ball was recycled into a crowded penalty area where Jeffrey’s looping header was palmed wide by Melia, erasing the danger and drawing cries of disbelief among the 18,268 in attendance.
Medranda, Dwyer and Gerso all pulled the trigger from distance before the final whistle, none of which beat Hamid. Dwyer’s left-footed sledgehammer offered the best chance, but the D.C. goalkeeper tipped the ball safely over the crossbar.
Sporting Kansas City now turns its attention to next Saturday's home opener at Children's Mercy Park versus FC Dallas, the reigning Supporters' Shield and U.S. Open Cup champions. The high-profile match will kick off at 8 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, and a limited number of tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 1 of 34
RFK Stadium | Washington, D.C.
Weather: 37 degrees and clear
|Sporting Kansas City (0-0-1, 1 pt)||0||0||0|
|D.C. United (0-0-1, 1 pt)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Benny Feilhaber, Ilie, Roger Espinoza; Jimmy Medranda, Dom Dwyer, Gerso
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas; Kevin Ellis, Saad Abdul-Salaam; Soni Mustivar; Latif Blessing, Daniel Salloi, Soony Saad
D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum (C), Sean Franklin, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas, Lloyd Sam (Lamar Neagle 76), Jared Jeffrey, Julian Buescher (Rob Vincent 61), Patrick Nyarko; Patrick Mullins (Jose Guillermo Ortiz 69)
Subs Not Used: Travis Worra; Bobby Boswell; Ian Harkes; Sebastien Le Toux
|Shots on Goal||5||6|
SKC -- Seth Sinovic (caution; unsporting behavior) 37
DC -- Sean Franklin (caution; unsporting behavior) 54
DC -- Rob Vincent (caution; unsporting behavior) 64
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; unsporting behavior) 72