April 21, 2021

D.C. United Game 31 Recap: United’s epic turnaround continues as D.C. clinches playoff spot


On this night, a draw will feel just fine for D.C. United. A 0-0 tie against visiting Sporting Kansas City before nearly 20,000 in the rain at RFK Stadium lifted United’s record to 15-9-7, and the 52 points are enough for D.C. to grab one of Major League Soccer’s five Eastern Conference playoff berths. Sporting Kansas City now stands 13-11-7 (46 points), remaining six points behind leaders United in the East.

United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a couple nice saves and three overall in posting his career-high 10th shutout of the season and 30th of his MLS career. D.C. had chances to break the deadlock, but multiple Fabian Espindola shots went wide, and mid-air contact on Chris Pontius in the SKC penalty area did not result in a spot kick in the judgment of referee Hilario Grajeda. Davy Arnaud was cautioned for United, and will be suspended for a game upon his next yellow card.

While Hamid gets statistical credit for the shutout, the entire defense played a key role. The back four of Chris Korb, Bobby Boswell, rookie Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp were excellent at clamping down on SKC attackers in the area when necessary, and while the visitors had a good bit of the ball around the United goal, they weren’t able to free people up for many quality goal-scoring chances. The back four were also adept at not only clearing the ball out of danger, but doing so in a composed manner that allowed the clear to find a teammate and start an attack.

A win would have gone a long way toward clinching the top seed in the East for the upcoming playoffs, but just to be even be talking about playoffs this fall after the horrendous season United had in 2013 is a minor miracle. United won just three matches a season ago, finishing with 16 points in what was one of the worst seasons any MLS club has ever experienced. A year later, United has clinched a playoff spot with three matches to go, and has an excellent chance at building its point total, with the remaining matches coming against the current bottom three clubs in the East.

With clinching the top seed in the East still out there, there will be no change in course from head coach Ben Olsen. With no CONCACAF Champions League play again until October 21, Olsen and his players can concentrate on the next league match, Sunday, Oct. 12, at Houston.

THE GOOD: The draw means United now has 36 more points than it had a season ago. Seattle and the L.A. Galaxy are the only other MLS clubs to clinch a playoff spot so far.

THE BAD: Not sure what Grajeda was looking at on the Pontius play in the area. He went up for a ball and was pretty well cleaned out. It’s a penalty nine out of 10 times. Tonight was the 10th, apparently.

THE UGLY: No ugly tonight, because The Ugly was all last year. On this night in which a playoff spot was earned, it’s only time to celebrate.

NOTES: Hamid’s clean sheet has kept United at just 34 goals conceded for the season. That’s second-best to the Galaxy, who have allowed only 31. … Despite not scoring tonight, United’s 26 home goals this season are four more than the club scored in all 34 matches in 2013. … United were credited with 12 shots tonight, 10 of which came from Espindola (six) and Nick DeLeon (four). … United played without suspended midfielder Perry Kitchen (yellow card accumulation).

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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