D.C. United falls to Sporting Kansas City in its MLS season finale, capping late fade


D.C. United defender Chris Korb, left, battles Omar Bravo, right, of Sporting Kansas City for the ball. (Nick Wass/AP)
October 22, 2011

A season that carried so much promise for D.C. United as late as a month ago came to a somber end Saturday night, ushering in another winter of reflection and change. It also might’ve signaled the end of Charlie Davies’s inspiring comeback in Washington.

United dropped a 1-0 decision to Sporting Kansas City before 15,965 at RFK Stadium, concluding the campaign on a six-game winless streak. Davies, the club’s second-leading scorer, was reduced to a sideline spectator.

“The feeling I get is that I don’t think [United coaches and officials] are too high on me, just from the way the season ended,” said Davies, who had 11 goals but started just one of the last six matches. “I’m not too sure what the future holds, but I had an amazing time here. The support was great. It was definitely the right move for my career.”

Davies, who recovered from serious injuries suffered in a 2009 car accident, was on loan from French club Sochaux. United won’t exercise the option on a $1.3 million transfer fee, and although it could try to extend the loan or negotiate a lower price, the language used by both sides suggests they’ll go separate ways.

“He’s probably not very happy with the playing time he has had,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “I look at it as a wonderful comeback.”

Utilizing other players down the stretch was “a coach’s decision,” Olsen said. “That’s just how I felt we were going to win games.”

Davies had his moments, recording two goals in his season debut and a hat trick against Chivas USA. But he also lacked the acceleration and consistent menacing qualities that highlighted his style before the accident.

His agents will meet with United officials soon, he said, to get a sense if “I’m staying or leaving, or whether I want to come back to MLS.”

If that were to happen, “I’d probably go with another MLS team.”

United (9-13-12) generated a few quality chances Saturday but was short of a finishing touch — a theme that haunted the club in recent matches. Stephen King failed to convert a partial breakaway in the first half, Dwayne De Rosario chipped a rebound high and Josh Wolff’s header on the final sequence of the match skimmed off the crossbar.

“That sums it all up,” midfielder Santino Quaranta said. “It hits off the crossbar, the referee blows the whistle, see ya next year.”

Said Wolff: “I just figured if I got my head to it first, it would go in. I’m not sure how it got up hitting the bar.”

Matt Besler scored off a scramble early in the second half for Kansas City (13-9-12), which clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Although he didn’t convert, De Rosario provided a lively performance in his final opportunity to bolster his MVP candidacy. He began the evening with 16 goals, one ahead of San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski for the MLS scoring title.

When De Rosario was introduced before the match, the supporters’ groups serenaded him with a chorus of “M-V-P!” He had two opportunities in the first 30 minutes — a short-side volley that zipped wide and a cheeky chip from the top of the box that floated over the crossbar.

Kansas City went ahead on a sequence that exposed United’s season-long weaknesses: a set piece and clearance from the box. Kei Kamara headed Graham Zusi’s corner kick off the right post. Austin Da Luz failed to clear, allowing Besler to turn on a 10-yarder for his second goal of the season.

And so the tinkering begins.

“I know what we need for next year,” Olsen said.

What?

“Not as much as [observers] think. I still have a lot of confidence in this group. We do need some things, for sure. It’s not going to be the same group of guys. It’s that simple. We’ve got to get some additions and we’ve got to get better.”

United notes: Midfielder Clyde Simms left in the 17th minute with a likely concussion. . . . The final home attendance average was 15,196, a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s mark of 14,532. . . . The players will take a week off, return for three weeks of workouts and then begin winter break. Roster moves will begin in late November. . . . The 10-team playoffs begin with wild-card matches Wednesday and Thursday. MLS Cup is Nov. 20 in Carson, Calif.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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