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Sporting edges D.C. to clinch Eastern title

Oct 23, 2011 - 1:52 AM Washington, D.C. (Sports Network) - Sporting Kansas City clinched the Eastern Conference on Saturday night and will look to continue a remarkable turnaround in the postseason.

Sporting started the year on a 10-game road trip that ended with just one win, but accumulated 45 of its 51 points over the final 24 matches to win its first regular season East crown. K.C. won the West three times between 1997-2004.

Matt Besler notched the lone goal Saturday against D.C. United, helping Kansas City to a 1-0 win that allowed it to finish with just three losses in its last 24 games. Sporting was 12-3-9 in that stretch.

"We started off the season kind of rocky, but we started with a win and ended with a win," Sporting Kansas City's C.J. Sapong said.

Sporting (13-9-12) will open the playoffs next weekend on the road against one of the wild-card winners, which will be decided midweek.

D.C. United (9-14-11) finished the season with losses in five of its last six, as it narrowly missed the postseason one season after finishing with the worst record in Major League Soccer.

Although United was eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday, Stephen King and Dwayne De Rosario each forced saves from K.C. goalie Jimmy Nielsen in the opening half on the only solid scoring chances for either side.

But K.C. turned its first solid chance into the opening goal, as Kei Kamara's header off the post rebounded into traffic where Besler latched onto the ball, turned and then fired into the net from deep inside the area for his second of the season.

United rarely threatened to erase the goal, and Josh Wolff headed off the bar in stoppage time on D.C.'s last chance, as Sporting sealed the road win.

After struggling on the road early, Kansas City was 3-1-3 in its last seven on the road, and should be tough in its first postseason appearance since 2008.

United finished the season with just four home wins, as the record four-time MLS Cup champions failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season.