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Espíndola prolongs Sporting’s woe, delivers win for D.C. United

Jun 1, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT

Between injuries and absences, Sporting Kansas City is in survival mode while its biggest stars are at the World Cup, a situation that makes goals like the one from Fabián Espíndola, above, even more ill-timed. One of only two D.C. United shots on target, the Argentine’s first half chip was Saturday’s only score, giving Ben Olsen’s team a 1-0 win over the defending champions at RFK Stadium.

Espíndola’s was a beautiful, well-placed shot, but as a goalkeeper, Eric Kronberg just can’t get caught like this. From 24-25 yards out, moving away from goal, an attacker shouldn’t have a chance to score from that angle. A goalkeeper has too much time to adjust. You not only have to be out of position, you have to be caught off guard. Whether Espíndola’s ball was intended to be a shot of a cross, Kronberg can’t get out like that. He has to be able to protect to get to that ball.

For Espíndola, however, the goal becomes the newest part of his remarkable surge. Five months after being let go by New York, just over a year after Real Salt Lake traded him away, the 29-year-old Argentine is challenging for his second career double-digit goal season. Three years after setting a career high with 10 goals, Espíndola is on pace for 18 after three months with United, scoring his seventh on Saturday.

On a team where no other player has more than three goals, the Re-Entry Draft pick has become United’s most important player. While it’d be foolhardy to expect this production to continue, the surge has bought time to incorporate Chris Rolfe and figure out how to use Eddie Johnson. Thought each of those projects is a work in progress, each promises to make the team less dependent on Espíndola’s goals, giving United new ways to sustain its unexpectedly strong start (after Saturday’s win, D.C. is in second in the East).

That the goal was so fluky will be a source of frustration for Kansas City – a team who, now winless in five, outshot their hosts 16-7, including 5-2 in chances on goal. Unfortunately, without Graham Zusi, and with Benny Feilhaber temporarily playing a deeper role, the team doesn’t have a way to augment Dom Dwyer’s missed chances. If he’s not scoring, Kansas City doesn’t have many options.

  1. Sgc - Jun 1, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    I’m a DC United fan.. . but that was an attempted cross that just got lucky.

    • Sgc - Jun 1, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      To the other point, I don’t think it’s Kronberg’s fault, he was pulled out of position by Eddie Johnson’s run. Had the cross gone where intended, positioning oneself at the far corner leaves the whole goal open. If you look, Johnson had completely beaten his man, he just pulled up because the cross wasn’t there (I’m sure he thought it was sailing out of play). In that sense, the much-maligned Johnson deserves almost as much credit as Espindola for that goal.

  2. bobinkc - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    The best Christmas gift Sporting fans could receive during the off season is a real goalie. Kronberg just doesn’t cut the fruit cake. He is frequently out of position, off his line too far, etc., etc., etc. He tries to orchestrate his blockers on short-range set pieces, but then can’t seem to see the ball coming at him. On this particular play, he started running forward toward the ball, but then had to run backward to try to catch the actual shot. If he can pulled out of position that badly, then the goalies coach needs to rethink his training schedule.

    SKC acquired The Hebrew Hammer from the Crew last off season but doesn’t use him for anything except practice and backup. If Vermes isn’t going to use him in place of the failing Kronberg, why was he acquired? Right now he is a waste of payroll bucks unless he is used as the starter. Much better than Kronberg.

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