Fabián Espíndola scores when he wants to. And apparently, when he isn’t even trying to as well.
A cross-turned-goal from D.C. United’s talismanic forward was enough to secure a victory for D.C., as they rode the 28th minute tally to a 1-0 win Saturday over Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium. The win, United’s first against KC since May of 2010, was a big one, pushing them into second place in the Eastern Conference standings with 21 points from 13 games, just two off the pace of front runner New England Revolution.
Sporting, meanwhile, are now winless in five games and fall into third place in the East with 19 points from 14 games.
United couldn’t have faced Sporting at a more favorable time.
Already missing Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Lawrence Olum to national-team duty and Oriol Rosell to injury, Kansas City were weakened even further when center back Aurelien Collin left the match in the seventh minute with an apparent hamstring problem.
Espindola’s seventh goal of the year hardly looked intentional, but it was a sight to see nonetheless. The forward collected the ball with his back to goal and from 25 yards out and struck an apparent cross, which Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg misjudged badly to allow the curling ball to find its way into the upper corner at the far post, giving United the early lead.
Sporting had their share of chances in a back-and-forth first 45, with outside back Seth Sinovic and Dom Dwyer combining nicely on a pair of chances.
In the 24th, a streaking Sinovic found Dwyer at the top of the six-yard box, but Dwyer’s deflected effort was easily collected by United ‘keeper Bill Hamid. The two would combine again 15 minutes later, but Sinovic’s driven cross from the edge of the area was met with a nearly identical result.
Sporting were a bit more active in the second half as United fell back to defend their lead.
In the 62nd minute, Benny Feilhaber’s free kick from outside the area was nodded toward goal by Jacob Peterson, skimming inches wide of the far post. Second-half substitute Soony Saad took a crack at finding the equalizer from eight yards out a quarter of an hour later, but Hamid did well to push his effort wide of the near post. The pair of strikes would be Sporting’s best two chances of the evening, and their last two as well.
United were dealt a late blow when second-half substitute Alex Caskey was given his marching orders four minutes into stoppage time for a late challenge on SKC defender Kevin Ellis.
United are back in action next Sunday when they welcome the Columbus Crew to FedExField, which will directly following Spain’s “Road to Brazil” friendly with El Salvador. Sporting will travel to Houston for a Friday evening tilt with the Dynamo.