C.J. Sapong began his sophomore year with a bang, sneaking through the D.C. United defense to head home a late winner in Sporting KC’s 1-0 win in front of 16,314 fans at RFK Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
D.C. ‘keeper Bill Hamid had been the story of the first 90 minutes, stymieing Sporting at every turn. But in the 93rd minute, second half substitute Sapong lost his marker on a corner kick, found space and placed a clinical header inside the near post.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Hamid robs Kamara
It was a goal that was a long time coming. Sporting’s counter attacking ability was put on showcase in the 35th minute, as they broke towards United’s goal from deep in their own territory. Winger Kei Kamara, who was active and dangerous all night, found space out wide and lashed a shot from 30 yards, but his attempt curled wide of the far post.
Minutes later, D.C. finally showed a bit of teeth when Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario combined to create the best chance for United in the first half. Pontius played a pass to De Rosario, who flicked it back to Pontius, but the United midfielder’s shot from 20 yards was dragged just wide of the post.
It looked as if KC would surely break through on the stroke of halftime when Roger Espinoza burst out of midfield and made his way down the left flank before crossing to Kamara. The big winger rose at the far post, but Hamid saved spectacularly, getting a toe to the effort and pushing it wide.
KC continued to enjoy more of the opportunities in the second half, but Hamid was up to the task of keeping United in the game. Teal Bunbury, who struggled with his touch and movement all game, was played into the box by Zusi, but fired high with Brandon McDonald applying pressure.
Hamid was tested again and again by Sporting, as Zusi and Espinoza both had opportunities to give KC the lead midway through the second half. Three times the two created chances for themselves, but each time Hamid covered the shot to eliminate any further danger.
United debutant Maicon Santos managed a shot on target late in the second half on a free kick 30 yards from goal, but Jimmy Nielsen comfortably saved the bouncing shot on his line.
That set the stage for the substitute Sapong to score his winner, as he rose above the United defenders to redirect Zusi’s corner past a helpless Hamid.
Sporting (1-0-0) travel back home to host New England at LiveStrong Park next Saturday, while D.C. (0-1-0) fly to Los Angeles to take on defending MLS Cup Champions LA Galaxy on Sunday at the Home Depot Center.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)