WASHINGTON – Sporting Kansas City needed a win on Saturday night against D.C. United to clinch first place in the Eastern Conference, and defender Matt Besler’s delivered, firing home the winner in the 54th-minute to earn SKC a 1-0 win on the road to close out the regular season.
Kansas City created the game’s first chance in the 4th minute when Kei Kamara curled in a teasing cross from the right wing to Omar Bravo in the six-yard box. The Mexican international’s touch betrayed him, however, and his bouncing volley went out for a goal kick.
With both teams packing in the midfield, clear chances were few and far between in long stretches of the first half. Sporting opted to try shots from distance, but controlled possession enough to pin DC in their own end.
As halftime approached, DC began to get their rhythm. Dwayne De Rosario played Stephen King in on goal in the 38th minute, but goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen came off his line to make a terrific kick save on King’s shot.
Two minutes later, De Rosario had a chance to open the scoring when Nielsen spilled Santino Quaranta’s shot from distance, but De Rosario lifted the rebound over an empty net and onto the roof of the goal.
DC kept the pressure on, and Nielsen punched away a low, driven shot from the foot of substitute Austin da Luz. Sporting had a chance just a minute before the half down on the other end, but Aurelien Collin headed just wide off a Graham Zusi corner kick.
Nine minutes after the break, Sporting KC opened the scoring. Kamara headed a corner kick off the post, and when the ball got hung up under da Luz’s legs, Matt Besler pounced, collecting the loose ball, turning and firing a shot past Bill Hamid.
Kamara almost doubled the lead for Sporting in the 73rd minute, glancing a header over Hamid’s goal off a corner kick. DC were almost able to score an equalizer in stoppage time, but Josh Wolff’s header banged off the crossbar to leave United with a second straight defeat at RFK Stadium to close out the season.
KC’s win won them top spot in the East, but their stifling defense left Golden Boot hopeful De Rosario stuck with a one-goal lead over Chris Wondolowski.
D.C. United 0, Sporting Kansas City 1
Sporting KC (13-9-12)
D.C. United (9-13-12)
KC -- Matt Besler 2 (unassisted) 54
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza (Davy Arnaud 46), Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar, Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 68).
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum, Jeferson, Soony Saad, Eric Kronberg.
D.C. United -- Bill Hamid, Chris Korb, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard (Marc Burch 46), Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Clyde Simms (Austin Da Luz 17), Stephen King (Josh Wolff 75), Dwayne De Rosario, Santino Quaranta.
Substitutes Not Used: Blake Brettschneider, Charlie Davies, Joseph Ngwenya, Joe Willis.
KC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; Tactical Foul) 26
DC -- Perry Kitchen (caution; Reckless Tackle) 34
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: -Eric Proctor; Corey Parker
4th Official: Mark Kadlecik
Time of Game: 1:49
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-56-degrees