DC United clinched an Eastern Conference play-off spot in Major League Soccer, with a goalless draw at home to champions Sporting Kansas City.
United had long since bowed out of contention at this stage of their disastrous 2013 campaign, but although they dropped points at RFK Stadium for the first time since June – and failed to complete a series hat-trick against the out-of-form Wizards – the stalemate sealed post-season soccer in the capital.
The Black-and-Red were made to battle for their point, and with just four minutes on the clock, Graham Zusi expertly picked out Kevin Ellis, but he made a hash of the header and directed the ball away from the gaping goal.
This was to be Kansas City’s best opportunity of the opening period, with DCU asserting their dominance quickly afterwards.
On his first start of the year, Chris Pontius cut inside and shot, though a ricochet fell kindly for Andy Gruenebaum, and Luis Silva then set away Fabian Espindola, who held off the defence to lash wide.
In the pouring rain, wet conditions soon had an effect though, as Davy Arnaud looked to compete with the imperious Lawrence Alum with a number of hacks, while two wonderful pieces of skill from Toni Dovale gave Igor Juliao an opportunity where he hastily go to ground under pressure.
In the 28th minute, Taylor Kemp and Silva combined to tee up Espindola, but his low hammer was blocked by the frame of Gruenebaum, before more lovely interplay saw Nick DeLeon sting the goalkeeper’s palms.
Sporting’s stopper looked less certain as he flapped at the approaching Steve Birnbaum moments later, with Bill Hamid collecting Toni’s drive in the visitors’ only riposte before the break.
A good day's work
Another effort from the Spaniard followed the restart, with Hamid this time slightly more nervy as he narrowly avoided presenting a chance to Dom Dwyer.
Meanwhile, the first half’s scrappy nature was retained as Juliao escaped a penalty call and Arnaud flirted with a red card, prior to two disappointing Espindola attempts – a tame header and inaccurate low finish.
Silva then dipped a free-kick inches past the near post, while Seth Sinovic came equally close at the other end. Next, the left-back turned provider as he crossed for Dwyer to nod back, and CJ Sapong was brilliantly repelled by the underworked Hamid.
However, United survived several late set-pieces to seal their progression to the play-offs.