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United ends losing streak

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Sports,MLS,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

United gets a draw against Sporting KC

It didn't look good for the referees, but it was the slightest hint that things might finally be turning around.

After a botched offsides call kept them from falling behind in the first half, D.C. United found a way to fight back after getting scored on in the second half. Add in some heroic defending late, and a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City finally meant the end of a franchise-worst streak of seven straight defeats.

"It beats losing," United coach Ben Olsen said. "It wasn't a great performance from us, but it was a gutsy performance. It's what we needed right now to change our course."

Before 13,612 at RFK Stadium, United (1-8-2) also ended a five-game skid against Sporting Kansas City (6-4-3) and earned its first point at home since a since beating Real Salt Lake, 1-0, in their home opener on March 9.

Kyle Porter connected at the back post on a long cross by Chris Pontius in the 65th minute, and goalkeeper Bill Hamid made four of his five saves in the final 14 minutes.

"I double checked over to the linesman just to see," said Porter, who'd had a goal incorrect called back against Columbus on March 23.

Ironically, it was the officials who took away a goal from the visitors in the 30th minute. Capitalizing on a dominant stretch of possession, Kansas City defender Matt Besler surged toward the end line and cut the ball back to Jacob Peterson, who slid it perfectly to wide-open Ike Opara for a tap-in finish. But assistant referee Matthew Nelson raised his flag and referee Jair Marrufo blew his whistle even though replays showed as many as three United players keeping Opara onside when the pass was delivered.

"I saw the ref put the flag up, and I took a huge sigh and kept playing," United defender Ethan White said. "It's not my call."

"I misjudged the play," Nelson said in response to a pool reporter's question after the game.

Opara still put the visitors ahead in the 60th minute, barely making contact off a Kansas City corner, but it was enough that White couldn't get out of the way as the ball hit off his face and settled into the net.

"He mishits it, and I'm standing in my zone," White said. "I blink, and it hits my face and goes in the goal. I really had no time to react or anything. Personally, I don't consider that an own goal. I consider it a deflection."

The unfortunate turn galvanized D.C. United, which needed only five minutes to equalize. Porter also had the chance to double his tally and put D.C. ahead in the 78th but pounded his shot into the legs of goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.

Hamid, who'd make a fantastic kick save on Graham Zusi in the first half, preserved the result by denying Lawrence Olum from point-blank range in the 77th minute, diving to his left to sent Claudio Bieler's one-time squirting wide in the 81st and stuffing Kei Kamara's blast in the 90th minute.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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