Preseason match 3: United vs Sporting KC
D.C. United played its third preseason scrimmage Saturday afternoon against Sporting Kansas City in Casa Grande, Ariz., falling 2-1. Regardless of the final score, United players felt they improved over the prior two preseason matches, relying on the team's depth to overcome the abscences of injured playmakers Branko Boskovic and Dwayne De Rosario.
Olsen's team stepped onto the field with a classic 4-4-2 formation; with Marcelo Saragosa and Perry Kitchen in the middle, and Andy Najar and Nick DeLeon on the flanks. Trialist Ryan Richter paired with Maicon Santos up top.
United's defense saw Emiliano Dudar start for the first time beside Dejan Jakovic as centerbacks, with Robbie Russell on the right and Daniel Woolard on the left. Despite the language barrier, the Argentine defender showed his leadership and energy in the back, being aggressive in the defense and calm in possession.
"We had a good game defensively," said Dudar. "They could never get one-on-one with our goalkeeper. Free kicks are isolated plays, and [Zusi] was able to hit it right. I think we had some really good moments, but we have to work on consistency; we need to be able to play well for more than just 20 minutes. It's always difficult to find a balance in preseason games. I think if we keep working this way, we'll be well prepared for the start of the season. I have a lot of confidence in this squad."
Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a free kick goal by Graham Zusi, who bent the ball perfectly over United's wall and into the top right corner. The Black-and-Red answered with an attempt from Santos, who used his physical presence to take defenders in the box, although his shot missed the net. The rest of the first half saw a physical battle for possession, as KC contained DC's pressure.
United was determined to equalize in the second half, with Najar and DeLeon as constant threats on the flanks. However, a new match begun in the 60th minute, as both teams sent entirely fresh lineups onto the field.
Just two minutes after the mass substitutions, Sporting cut United's play in the midfield and worked an effective counter attack as the ball was sent into DC's box. Sonny Saad found Jacob Peterson's ball in front of the goal, pushing it to the back of the net to give KC the 2-0 lead.
United's offensive pressure paid-off in the 78th minute, as guest player Jose Burciaga scored DC's only goal of the match. The former Kansas City left back buried a deflected cross from Danny Cruz inside the box with a left-footed volley. United kept pressing and almost found the equalizer in the 88th minute, as Cruz broke free in the right side of the box and fired a shot with his left foot, only to be stopped by Eric Kronberg. Despite United's continued attempts, the score remained 2-1 in the end.
D.C. United will play its fourth and final scrimmage match on Tuesday, February 14 before departing Arizona. The Black-and-Red will face Real Salt Lake at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix, with kickoff set to 11:30 a.m. MST (1:30 p.m. ET).
SKC - Graham Zusi 34'
SKC - Soony Saad (Jacob Peterson) 62'
DC - Jose Burciaga 78'
SKC - Roger Espinoza (caution) 19'
DC - Dejan Jakovic (caution) 32'
DC - Nick DeLeon (caution) 57'
Starting XI: Bill Hamid; Robbie Russell, Dejan Jakovic, Emiliano Dudar, Daniel Woolard; Marcelo Saragosa, Perry Kitchen, Andy Najar, Nick DeLeon; Ryan Richter [trialist], Maicon Santos
Substitutes: Joe Willis 46', Lance Rozeboom [Supplemental Draft Pick] 60', Conor Shanosky 60', Jose Burciaga [guest] 60'; Seth C'deBaca [trialist] 60', Matt Armstrong [guest] 60', Stephen King 60', Danny Cruz 60'; Stefan Jerome [trialist] 60', Alfredo [trialist] 70', Garre [guest] 85'
Starting XI: Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Julio Cesar, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Bobby Convey
Substitutes: Paulo Nagamura 46', Eric Kronberg 60', Korede Aiyegbusi 60', Lawrence Olum 60', Hedrick 60', Michael Harrington 60', Luke Sassano 60', Konrad Warzycha 60', Dom Dwyer 60', Soony Saad 60', Jacob Peterson 60', Luke Sassano 60'