D.C. UNITED vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
March 10, 2012 (WEEK 1, MLS Game #3)
7:30 p.m. ET (CSN-MA+; KSMO)
D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City ended the 2011 regular season against each other - and the Eastern Conference foes meet once again, this time to kick off the 2012 campaign. For United, that season finale came just after seeing their playoff hopes dashed for a fourth consecutive year. Sporting ended the 2011 season atop the Eastern Conference and were 90 minutes from reaching MLS Cup, before falling in the conference final on their home ground.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): Sean Hurd; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Mark Kadlecik
MLS Career: 88 games; FC/gm: 26.5; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 16; pens: 30
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D.C. UNITED -- OUT: MF Kurt Morsink (L foot neurectomy); QUESTIONABLE: DF Ethan White (R knee inflammation)
SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: GK Eric Kronberg (lower back injury); QUESTIONABLE: MF Paulo Nagamura (L calf strain); PROBABLE: MF Graham Zusi (R quad strain); MF Julio Cesar (L knee strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
ALL-TIME (43 meetings): United 18 wins (1 shootout), 60 goals ... Sporting 16 wins (0 shootout), 67 goals ... Ties 9
AT RFK STADIUM (21 meetings): United 12 wins (0 shootout), 33 goals ... Sporting 5 wins (0 shootout), 24 goals ... Ties 4
RETURN MATCH: 8/11: Sporting Kansas City vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. CT
LAST YEAR (MLS):
8/21: KC 1, DC 0 (Kamara 19)
10/22: DC 0, KC 1 (Besler 54)
Sporting won both meetings last season by 1-0 scorelines.
United haven't won in Kansas City since a 1-0 victory, July 4, 2007.
Last year's Sporting win at RFK Stadium was the first win by a road team in the series since United's 2007 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
Coaches record: Ben Olsen vs. KC: P2 W0 L2 D0 ... Peter Vermes vs. DC: P6 W3 L2 D1
D.C. United are looking to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007 - the longest postseason drought in the storied club's history - when Ben Olsen begins his second full season in charge. United were pipped from a playoff spot in the season's final week last year, finishing in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
While the preseason finale against the Columbus Crew in the Carolina Challenge Cup was cancelled because of inclement weather in Charleston, S.C., United claimed the "Coffee Pot Cup" - emblematic of the preseason tournament championship - for a third consecutive year.
United defeated the USL Pro League Charleston Battery 3-1 in their eventual final match, behind goals from Maicon Santos, Ryan Richter and Hamdi Salihi.
Here's the United team: Joe Willis (Andrew Dykstra 61'); Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald (Dejan Jakovic 46'), Emiliano Dudar (Ethan White 46'), Jos» Burciaga [trialist] (Andy Najar 46'); Danny Cruz (Daniel Woolard 78'), Branko Boskovic (Stephen King 46'), Lance Rozeboom [trialist] (Conor Shanosky 61'), Nick DeLeon (Chris Pontius 71'); Ryan Richter [trialist] (Josh Wolff 61'), Maicon Santos (Hamdi Salihi 71')
To open the tournament, United defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0, with Salihi scoring the only goal.
Here's the United team: Joe Willis; Robbie Russell (Chris Korb 78'), Brandon McDonald (Ethan White 46'), Dejan Jakovic (Emiliano Dudar 46'), Daniel Woolard (Guilherme [trialist 75']); Andy Najar (Danny Cruz 78'), Stephen King (Ryan Richter [trialist] 88'), Marcelo Saragosa (Lance Rozeboom 46'), Chris Pontius (Nick DeLeon 71'); Dwayne DeRosario (Conor Shanosky 58'), Hamdi Salihi (Maicon Santos 68')
Salihi, an Albanian international, was signed by the club just before heading to South Carolina and scored goals in each of his appearances.
"He's a thinker," said fellow forward Josh Wolff. "He's constantly moving and scheming around the backs. He's not a big guy but he uses his space very well. His timing is impeccable." Added strike partner Dwayne De Rosario: "He's a very smart player. He's dangerous in the box. He makes good runs, timely runs, and he reads the game really well."
United are also hoping to have Designated Player Branko Boskovic back for the entire season. He suffered a torn ACL in his knee last April - an injury he says is completely healthy.
"I feel good, I feel alive. I love the team. I think there are some very good players. I'm very happy to be with this group," Boskovic said. " ... I missed a couple of days in Arizona and I need to work a lot on my fitness. I will see how long I can play and for how many minutes. Still, I don't know. But for the first game, I will be ready."
The final match cancellation also robbed United head coach Ben Olsen with the opportunity to see his first-choice XI together. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid and holding midfielder Perry Kitchen missed the first two matches in Charleston while on duty with the U.S. U-23 national team.
United thought they had lost a quality offseason pickup when midfielder Danny Cruz suffered an ankle injury in a tackle and had to be carted off in the match vs. host Charleston. But after initial indications were the injury was more serious, Cruz returned to training before the club returned home.
"It comes with the way that I play," Cruz said. "I expect it every game. If you look at the amount of times that I get fouled, it's a lot compared to my minutes. I'm getting hit a lot, so I'm used to getting hit."
IN: D Robbie Russell (11/29: trade from RSL); M Nick DeLeon (1/12: SuperDraft); M Lance Rozeboom (1/17: supplemental draft); F Maicon Santos (1/18: free); M Danny Cruz (1/20: trade from Houston); D Emiliano Dudar (1/25: free/BSC Young Boys); F Hamdi Salihi (2/2: Rapid Vienna); M Marcelo Saragosa (2/6: Ravan Baku); GK Andrew Dykstra (2/27: free)
OUT: M Santino Quaranta (12/7: retired); D Marc Burch (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Seattle); M Clyde Simms (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/New England); M Brandon Barklage (12/12: option declined); G Steve Cronin (12/12: option declined); F Joseph Ngwenya (12/12: option declined); D Jed Zayner (12/12: option declined); D Devon McTavish (12/22: retired); M Austin da Luz; F Blake Brettschneider (2/3: waived); M Conor Shanosky (3/2: loaned to Fort Lauderdale)
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City kick off Peter Vermes' third full season in charge with a target on their backs after finishing atop the Eastern Conference regular season standings a season ago following a two-year postseason absence. In the opening season of their Livestrong Sporting Park home, SKC played host to the Eastern Conference Championship, but fell 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo.
Sporting concluded their preseason preparations in Florida with a 4-1 win against the U.S. U-17 national team last Thursday. Soony Saad scored the final two goals for K.C., which also got goals from Konrad Warzycha and Kyle Miller.
Here's the Sporting team: Steve Spangler, Korede Aiyegbusi (Shawn Singh 46), Lawrence Olum, Cyprian Hedrick (Sacir Hot 46), Michael Harrington, Luke Sassano (Stefan Antonijevic 46), Mozzi Gyorio, Konrad Warzycha (Michael Thomas 46), Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad, Kevin Ellis (Kyle Miller 46)
The match came after three contests in the Disney Pro Soccer Challenge, where Sporting failed to advance out of the group phase after a 3-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the third game. The loss was the first of the preseason in six matches for K.C.
"It [loss vs. Vancouver] came at a great time," SKC head coach Peter Vermes said. "It gets you 10 days right before the first game. Maybe you think things are going well and you deal with a little bit of adversity. ... But our preparation has always been for D.C. And nothing else has changed."
Here's the Sporting team: Jon Kempin; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin (Cyprian Hedrick 78), Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Julio Cesar (Luke Sassano 63), Paulo Nagamura (Mozzi Gyorio 73), Bobby Convey (Soony Saad 63); Jacob Peterson (Michael Harrington 83), C.J. Sapong (Dom Dwyer 69), Kei Kamara
Prior to that match, SKC played to a pair of draws against MLS clubs, 1-1 with Montreal Impact on Feb. 26 and 0-0 with Houston Dynamo on Feb. 24.
Coming out of preseason camp, the Sporting midfield is somewhat injury-hit. Holding midfielder Julio Cesar took part in limited training, while Paulo
Nagamura and Graham Zusi - who won his first full U.S. cap and scored on his international debut - were held out of training.
"It's nothing too bad," said Zusi, suffering from right quadriceps tightness. "I just don't want to make it any worse. It's a little frustrating, because you always want to be out with the out with the guys and playing, especially leading up to the first game of the season, but I want to be as sharp and fit as possible."
Bobby Convey, acquired from the San Jose Earthquakes, started in the midfield vs. Vancouver and played 63 minutes.
"We've got a ton of guys," Vermes said. "[Luke] Sassano can play there, Konrad [Warzycha] can play there, [Michael] Thomas can play there. It's not going to be hard to find someone to play that spot. Obviously, you always want to have everyone around," Vermes added, "but I've always been of the belief that one man's absence is another man's opportunity."
IN: D Seth Sinovic (11/28: trade from Montreal); M Paulo Nagamura (11/29: trade from Chivas USA); M/D Bobby Convey (12/2: trade from San Jose); F Dom Dwyer (1/12: SuperDraft); D Cyprian Hedrik (1/12: SuperDraft); M Michael Thomas (1/18: Ljungskile SK/Sweden); F Jacob Peterson (1/19: free/San Jose Earthquakes)
OUT: M Davy Arnaud (11/28: trade to Montreal); M J»ferson (11/23: waived); D Scott Lorenz (11/23: waived); M Craig Rocastle (11/23: waived); D Seth Sinovic (11/23: expansion draft) M Milos Stojcev (11/23: waived); F Omar Bravo (12/12: Cruz Azul/Mexico); D Shavar Thomas (12/12: option declined); M Daneil Cyrus (1/22: waived)