Preview: New York Red Bulls v Sporting KC

IMAGE, NEW YORK RED BULLS FACEBOOK

BY MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

After being shut out for the second time in three league matches, New York begins the September death march that has loomed on the calendar for months.

The Red Bulls will play seven times over the next twenty-two days, including matches in El Salvador and in Los Angeles.  The stretch couldn’t come at a worse time, with New York having fallen below the red line, and last season’s MLS Cup champion Kansas City coming to town Saturday. 

After another defensive mistake and another loss, how will Mike Petke’s men perform on home soil?

Match Information:
Saturday, September 6th at Red Bull Arena, 7:30p ET kickoff, TV: NBCSN

Referee: Hilario Grajeda

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York, 31 points from 25 matches, 39GF/38GA, 7th in the East, 13th in MLS, DWLWL
Sporting KC, 42 points from 27 matches, 38GF/32GA, 2st in the East, t-5th in MLS, LWLLL

Sporting’s front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:

CJ Sapong, Dom Dwyer, and Graham Zusi vs. Roy Miller, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).
If anyone is going to catch Bradley Wright-Phillips in the race for the MLS Golden Boot, it’s fellow Englishman Dom Dwyer.  With 17 goals on the season, Dwyer has scored fourteen more times more than anyone else on the Sporting roster. Dwyer will be fresh after sitting out KC’s Wednesday night loss to New England with yellow card accumulation.  Sapong (2G) has recovered from an injury that kept him out until late June, likely making his 2014 season his least productive stat-wise in his MLS career. Zusi’s three goals and five assists are off of his usual production, which can be excused by his World Cup experience.   In last week’s match, Luis Robles took the responsibility for the miscommunication with Ibrahim Sekagya that led to DC’s first goal, the latest of a series of mental errors that continue to doom the team.  Thankfully, Chris Duvall’s injury in that match appears to have not been serious, and the Wake Forest product should start on Saturday. New York has allowed six goals in the club’s last four MLS matches. Olave’s next yellow card will earn him a suspension.
Advantage: Kansas City

New York’s attackers vs. KC’s defense:

Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, and Igor Juliao (and Andy Gruenebaum).
As Henry said after the Montreal win, BWP could have twenty more goals this season.  In DC, Wright-Phillips had two opportunities in the box that could have been finished: the header saved well by Hamid, and the free kick that BWP flubbed with his feet.  Hopefully the MLS Scoring Leader will find his touch again.  Kansas City’s defense is a shambles right now, having allowed three goals in each of the club’s last three matches. Collin (2G) was held out of KC’s loss to the Revs, presumably to keep him fit for Saturday. Sinovic is the minutes leader for Sporting, having started all but two matches this season.  Despite Besler’s strong play in Brazil, the KC native has been unable to prevent balls going in the Sporting net during their slide.  Juliao played all 90 minutes in KC’s 1-1 draw with the Red Bulls on May 27th. Andy Gruenebaum has played of late in the KC net as searches for the consistency of the departed Jimmy Nielsen. The Hebrew Hammer is known for smashing his head into the South goal goalpost while playing for Columbus at Red Bull Arena a few seasons ago.
Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, Peguy Luyindula, and Lloyd Sam v Martin Steuble, Laurence Olum, and Benny Feilhaber. 
With Tim Cahill away with Australia and Ambroise Oyongo with Cameroon, New York will turn to former starters Eric Alexander and Peguy Luyindula to help power the Red Bulls attack.  Cahill’s absence will prove to be addition by subtraction for New York.  Luyindula’s midfield play will allow Henry to play more of a forward role, and should increase the number of chances the Red Bulls can get on net. Of course, New York will miss the speed of Oyongo, perhaps pushing Miller further up the field and opening the Red Bulls susceptible to counterattacks.  Sporting will try to bypass McCarty by playing quickly up the wings. Olum plays a similar role to New York’s McCarty, and his two goals and one assist are career highs for the Kenyan native. Summer signing Swiss Martin Stueble has played all of 69  minutes for KC since his arrival on July 16thBenny Feilhaber, after taking the majority of last year to learn coach Peter Vermes’ playing style, has excelled in 2014. His six assists lead the club, and like Dwyer, will also be fresh after sitting out Wednesday’s match due to yellow cards.  
Advantage: Even

The Coaches:

After another shutout on the road, Red Bulls fans are coming to grips with the idea that their team may not reach the postseason. Mike Petke is surely responsible for some of the blame for his team’s mediocre performance, but playing a goal down, on the road, and holding his subs until close to injury time does little to illustrate that Petke is improving as a coach.  While Peter Vermes’ job is completely secure, his club is on a slide not seen in years.  In the Sporting era, Vermes’ team hasn’t lost four of five matches, period.  While the club won its MLS Cup through the penalty kick lottery, his clubs always fight hard, even when not playing well. 
Advantage: Kansas City

Intangibles:

Amazingly, the last time the home team has won a match in this series was over three years ago, when KC beat New York 2-nil on October 15th, 2011.  Since then the road team has gone 3-0-3. The only current Red Bulls to score against Kansas City are Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips, with one each. New York will be giving away t-shirts to all attending fans, which should boost attendance over the twenty-thousand mark.  The forecast will be closer to an early August evening than early September, with a temperature around 80 at kickoff at scattered Thunderstorms throughout the night.  
Advantage: Even

Prediction:

Saturday starts the hellish stretch of New York’s schedule, and getting points while the team is fresh will be extremely important.  The Red Bulls is missing some players, but they are catching Sporting at the right time, when the team is down and is leaking goals like crazy.  KC will be lifted by the return of their two biggest scoring threats, but even with Dwyer and Feilhaber, New York will pick up a point in a wild, wet, and wacky 3-3 draw.