Sporting Kansas City 1, D.C. United 0

mlslogoD.C. United has scored two goals in 450 minutes this season: a header off a rebound and a opportunistic shot from distance with the goalkeeper scrambling back into position. That’s it. In three away matches, United has not scored while placing a grand total of three shots on target. The last time someone other than Nick DeLeon scored on the road was October 27 — six away games ago, when Lionard Pajoy equalized at Chicago.

Pajoy continues to frustrate and befuddle. He works hard. He provides moments of promise, like tonight just before the half when he beat two defenders in the box. He does occasionally score. But he also doesn’t seize on opportunities — like the two in the first half tonight. On a punch-less team that can’t afford to let chances pass by, those misses are magnified.

Ben Olsen was pleased with the effort and the commitment and the return to basics after a pair of messy performances.

“We talk about earning the right to play soccer. If you put the work in, if you battle and win second balls, you ultimately are going to have more possession. We are not good enough to start from [goalkeeper] Bill [Hamid] and build-up out of the back and play like some of the best teams in the world. We’ve got to earn that right, and today we earned it. There was some good stuff.”

The defense was pretty good, too. Reunited after Dejan Jakovic‘s Canadian commitment in Qatar, Brandon McDonald and Jakovic were sound in central defense. Afterward, McDonald was upset that Claudio Bieler wasn’t red-carded for what he says was a punch to the throat. [You can read his comments, and other details, in my match report.]

McDonald’s sour mood spread to other topics. Asked about the team’s improved performance since the 2-1 home loss to Columbus two weeks ago, he said: “The difference is, you look at our field and you look at [Kansas City's] field. RFK is a mess. It’s dry, it’s bumpy, there are holes everywhere. This is a real field. You can see the difference. We can play on a real field.”

Play, United did. In the first half, anyway. D.C. held possession as well as it has all season. Just no goals. Again. Next up: the New York Red Bulls next Saturday night in Washington. Yes, the Red Bulls shut out United in the first meeting this season. Oh, there’s no standard TV available either.

Match video:

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D.C. United at Sporting Kansas City