Normally, a matchup against the defending MLS champion would be a formidable challenge, but D.C. United can consider itself lucky this weekend when it faces a depleted and tired Sporting Kansas City side.
Because of injuries and international duties, Sporting KC will bring far less than a full-strength roster to RFK Stadium on Saturday. Star duo Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are away with the U.S. national team, while versatile midfielder Lawrence Olum is with Kenya.
Additionally, normal starters Chance Myers, C.J. Sapong and Uri Rosell are among several injury absences. So it’s no surprise that Sporting KC has gone four games without a win, including a 1-1 draw against New York on Wednesday.
Conversely, D.C. United is relatively healthy and rested. Chris Pontius is the only long-term injury concern, with Sean Franklin expected back any day from a foot injury. United is also coming off a full week’s rest — unlike their opponent.
United received an additional boost Wednesday, as Eddie Johnson’s red card from Saturday’s loss at New England was rescinded by the league after review, meaning he will be available for selection against Sporting KC.
Johnson still only has one goal on the season, but the scoring slack has been picked up by a host of players, including Fabian Espindola, who is rapidly turning into an All-Star candidate.
Espindola scored a goal off the bench against New England last weekend, bringing his total for the season to six — in addition to his five assists. Only five MLS players have scored more goals than Espindola, and only one has more assists.
The Argentine’s career highs in goals and assists are 10 and seven, respectively, meaning he’s easily on pace to have the best statistical season of his eight-year MLS career.
United’s Group Set
The CONCACAF Champions League draw was Wednesday. D.C. United was placed into a group with Panamanian side Tauro FC and Jamaican team Waterhouse FC. United earned its spot by winning the U.S. Open Cup last season and will have to finish first in the group to advance. Games are expected to begin in August.