D.C. United opens fi­nal full sea­son at RFK with a 0-0 draw with Sport­ing KC.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN GOFF steven.goff@wash­post.com

With play­maker Lu­ciano Acosta side­lined for Satur­day’s sea­son opener, D.C. United la­bored to find a rhythm and cre­ate a steady flow of scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing a 0-0 draw with Sport­ing Kansas City

Nev­er­the­less, United had two de­light­ful chances to crack open the match be­fore 18,268 at RFK Sta­dium.

The first came in the 17th minute when Marcelo Sar­vas failed to con­vert a penalty kick.

The sec­ond came in a 13-sec­ond flurry mid­way through the sec­ond half when two Kansas City play­ers cleared cer­tain goals off the line and goal­keeper Tim Melia made a ter­rific save.

“Crazy lit­tle span of events right there,” de­fender Nick DeLeon said. “We could’ve nicked a goal, for sure.”

In­stead, United needed to ab­sorb pres­sure from Kansas City the re­main­der of the bone-chill­ing night to se­cure one point.

With­out much to say about his at­tack, Coach Ben Olsen saved his com­pli­ments for goal­keeper Bill Hamid, who made a ster­ling save in the first half and con­trolled the penalty area from start to fin­ish. He also lauded the back line, which in­cluded DeLeon and Sean Franklin em­brac­ing new po­si­tions.

“It was a pretty gutsy per­for­mance from us, and we de­fended more than we would’ve liked — or thought we would have [had to] against them,” Olsen said. “But from a de­fen­sive ex­er­cise, it was pretty im­pres­sive.”

Hamid’s soar­ing stop on Benny Feil­haber’s 14th-minute free kick from 25 yards was the only gen­uine threat. United yielded pos­ses­sion but, aside from a few fright­en­ing mo­ments around the box, was not in se­ri­ous dan­ger.

Acosta, the Ar­gen­tine mae­stro, did not prac­tice all week be­cause of an undis­closed leg in­jury and wasn’t in uni­form. Olsen turned to Ju­lian Buescher, a sec­ond-year at­tack­ing mid­fielder who had showed flashes of prom­ise as a rookie.

Buescher wasn’t bad, but he’s no Acosta, a clever, dart­ing, quick-footed at­tacker who sets the tempo and un­locks de­fenses.

“Lu­cho would’ve cer­tainly have helped, but he wasn’t out there,” Olsen said. “Ju­lian, for a while, was very good. He started to get a lit­tle fa­tigued [af­ter an in­jury-plagued pre­sea­son]. He’s a nice young player.”

Acosta will be listed as day-to­day, Olsen said, with the hope that he’s able to re­join train­ing and travel with the team for next Sun­day’s match against New York City FC at Yan­kee Sta­dium.

“We’ll have a bet­ter feel Tues­day” when the team re­sumes work­outs, Olsen said.

Aside from Buescher’s en­trance, Olsen se­lected a lineup con­sis­tent with his pre­sea­son de­ci­sions. DeLeon, a long­time mid­fielder, lined up at right back, and Franklin, a long­time right back, was at cen­ter back in place of Bobby Boswell.

DeLeon’s at­tack­ing strengths sur­faced with over­lap­ping runs and col­lab­o­ra­tion wing Lloyd Sam.

“Nicky was fan­tas­tic,” Olsen said. “He was born for that po­si­tion. He just needs to fine­tune some things. If we’re a lit­tle bit bet­ter in the cen­ter of the park, he gets in­volved the at­tack more. Sean was great. I don’t think he did much wrong all night.”

Pa­trick Nyarko’s cre­ative work on the left side led to the early penalty kick, awarded when Melia un­der­cut Buescher deep in the box. But Melia re­deemed him­self by guess­ing cor­rectly on Sar­vas’s at­tempt, slid­ing to his right to stop the low bid.

In the 67th minute, United looked cer­tain to take the lead. Sam served a cor­ner kick. At the near post, Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza ap­peared to flick the ball to­ward the back cor­ner. Team­mate Jimmy Me­dranda headed it off the line. DeLeon volleyed from close range to­ward the far left side, but Dom Dwyer nod­ded the ball out.

From near the top of the penalty area, Sar­vas lifted the ball over the de­fense to Jared Jef­frey be­hind the de­fense and on­side for a six-yard header that Melia thwarted.

Costa Ri­can for­ward Jose Guillermo Or­tiz made his United de­but, and La­mar Nea­gle, last year’s lead­ing scorer, en­tered the match for the last 15 min­utes. But with­out Acosta, United could not sus­tain mean­ing­ful pos­ses­sion.

“It’s a start,” for­ward Pa­trick Mullins said. “We have a lot of things we can be pleased about for a first game. We didn’t al­low much, and we had chances.” with right

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