After giving up three goals in their first two matches, Sporting Kansas City looked like a caricature of the tight defensive side that had bulldozed through the 2012 season with the fewest goals against in all MLS. A month later, Sporting is rounding into form and looks once again like the best defensive team in the Eastern Conference and the entire league after posting their fourth straight shutout in a 1-0 win over DC United on Friday night.
With the victory, secured in the penultimate minute before second-half stoppage time, Sporting moved into second place in the East behind the Montreal Impact — the team they knocked off last weekend to deal the Canadians their first setback of a previously-perfect start to the season. Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen earned his fourth consecutive clean sheet in the victory, forced to stop just one shot on goal by Carlos Ruiz in the 76th minute. The back four locked down Lionard Pajoy and the rest of United’s attack all night, allowing just four attempts on Kansas City’s goal, and with the shutout Sporting now allow just 0.5 goals per match.
The game winner was never a guarantee, though, as it looked for the majority of the match as though this would go into the books as a scoreless draw. While Sporting had locked down on DC all night, so too had United prevented the home side’s stable of strikers and midfielders from generating scoring chances of their own. A series of substitutions in the final ten minutes saw Sporting bring on Soony Saad, who shined for the club during preseason play and was instrumental in the Friday night victory.
Saad started the build-up to the only goal of the match by picking Marcos Sanchez’s pocket, swiping the ball and pressing forward. He then nutmegged Marcelo Saragosa, retrieving his own ball on the other side of the perplexed defender. Seeing Claudio Bieler just outside the six-yard box, unmarked and ready to test DC keeper Bill Hamid, Saad cut the ball back for the star striker. Using his left foot, Bieler beat Hamid at the far post to claim full points for his side and leave the visitors scratching their heads as to what might have been.
DC UNITED @ SPORTING KANSAS CITY
April 5, 2013
- 89′ — SKC/Claudio Bieler (Soony Saad)
- SKC (4-3-3): Jimmy Nielsen; Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers; Benny Feilhaber (Soony Saad/83′), Oriol Rosell (Peterson Joseph/85′), Paulo Nagamura (Lawrence Olum/89′); C.J. Sapong, Claudio Bieler, Graham Zusi
- DC (4-1-2-1-2): Bill Hamid; Daniel Woolard, Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald, Chris Korb; Perry Kitchen; Chris Pontius, Marcos Sanchez; Raphael Augusto (Carlos Ruiz/72′); Lionard Pajoy, Rafael (Marcelo Saragosa/65′)