Another season opener is past us, and another lone goal against DC United won the game for Sporting Kansas City. CJ Sapong the scorer of course - who is beginning to make a knack of scoring important goals for us. And while the 93 minute header was only the first goal of what will be a long 35+ game season it was an important one nevertheless. It not only earned Sporting KC a valuable 3 points, but it also set the tone for the rest of the season. And a clear belief is starting to come out from the fog of the preseason and is attaching itself to Sporting KC, a belief that I believe Sporting KC will carry around wherever they go. That is, of course, that Sporting KC are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
A strong performance from the Sporting KC players starting from the back and moving forward earned them this belief. Yet it was DC United who eventually constructed there own downfall. Poor marking from Maicon Santos on CJ Sapong on the winning play of the game - a corner - and a lack of putting someone on DC United's back post were all factors in letting in the stoppage time goal.
And When Sporting KC did eventually give DC their 40% share of ball possession DC United was wasteful. Seemingly handing the ball back to Sporting KC almost every time they went on the attack. When Sporting KC got the ball however they looked like a team with a purpose, a team with energy and fight.
In the end DC United looked exactly like what they were, a bunch of new players who hadn't been given enough time to gel together. Sporting KC on the other hand was a different story when it comes to being able to gel together, and that is something that they will have over most teams throughout the season.
(match ratings after the jump)
Jimmy Nielsen - 6
Nielsen only had to make one save throughout the entire game in the 83' minute from a Maicon Santos shot. The newly anointed captain for Sporting's 2012 season may just have to get used to games where his back 4 makes his job easy.
Chance Myers - 6
Like the rest of the back line Myers played well, he made some runs forward to assist Kamara but besides that was quiet. Chance hasn't shown his best yet, he'll be important in tougher matches against the other big boys later on in the season with his speed.
Aurelien Collin - 8
Collin had a fantastic game, every challenge he went into he won. He along with Besler shut down DC's attacking line of Dwayne De Rosario and the 'Albanian Bomber' Hamdi Salihi.
Matt Besler - 7
His throw-ins are still a pivotal part of what he can bring to the team but for whatever reason last night they were a little off. Don't let that take away from a fantastic defensive display however.
Seth Sinovic - 7
I thought Sinovic did a really good job against DC's pacy winger Andy Najar. Sinovic thwarted several of United's attacks that came from the right hand side.
Julio Cesar - 6
It was an average game for the Brazilian. He made passes where they were necessary and protected his back line from most of DC's attacks. What was surprising to me though was how he stayed back with the fullbacks on corners and set pieces. Julio's a big guy and has traditionally been a threat in most aerial challenges.
Roger Espinoza - 7
Roger again showed us his spirit and fight to win from what I like to call, "the box to box" midfield position. He helped Cesar and Sinovic shut down DC's right wing but also helped Zusi move the ball forward and attack.
Graham Zusi - 8
My man of the match for Sporting KC. The American international provided the winning assist to CJ Sapong and was extremely important in how Sporting attacked and pushed forward, i'll say it again - he will be absolutely vital to KC this season.
Bobby Convey - 5
To me Convey looked like he was lost on the left hand wing for Sporting KC. While it's no secret that he wants to play out there it will take him some time before he really gets ingrained into Sporting KC's high-pressure system.
Teal Bunbury - 6
The selection battle of Bunbury vs. Sapong continues. And while it is evident that Sapong is starting to get a edge on the Canadian born striker I still think Teal had a good game. He held up the ball pretty well and didn't have any 30 yard shots that blasted into the 18th row. So that's always a positive with Teal.
Kei Kamara - 7
Out of the attacking 3 that started the game Kei was surely the brightest. He came close on several occasions and was thoroughly unlucky his header in the 45th minute was saved by my man of the match for DC Bill Hamid.
CJ Sapong(for Teal Bunbury 75') - 8
Sapong not only scored the winning goal for Sporting KC using fantastic physical mite and prowess but also sent a message to Peter Vermes to start the young Virginia native.
Jacob Peterson(for Bobby Convey 85') - N/A
Jacob was only on the pitch for the final part of the game so he does not receive a score. He looks like he has some pace though.