Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

After a demoralizing loss in New England that saw Kemar Lawrence injured and Felipe suspended, New York limps back home to Red Bull Arena this weekend to take on Sporting KC.

The club is starting a run of three matches in eight days on Saturday night against a very strong Sporting side that just suffered its first loss of the season.  A Western road trip looms, with trips to revitalized San Jose and Colorado on Wednesday and Saturday.

This weekend’s match may be the best chance for New York to win points before New York’s walking wounded returns to duty. Can the Red Bulls take advantage at home against a team they’ve owned of late?


Match Information:

Saturday, April 9th at Red Bull Arena. 7:00p ET kickoff
TV/Streaming: MSG2/MSG GO (Optimum and Xfinity subscribers)
Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: Fotis Bazakos

Regular Season Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form
New York, 3 points from 4 matches, 4GF/9GA, t-8th in the East, t-17th in MLS, LLWL
Kansas City, 9 points from 4 matches, 5GF/3GA, 2nd in the West, 2nd in MLS, WWWL

Projected Lineups:

New York

NYvSKC

Sporting KC

SKC v NY


New York’s front line vs. the Sporting defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Amadou Dia, Kevin Ellis, Nuno Coelho, and Chance Myers (and Tim Melia)

Wright-Phillips leads the Red Bulls with 13 shots and seven shots on goal, but is scoreless on the season to date. BWP’s touch appears off, and he’s rarely receiving the ball in a position to shoot anyway. It’s no wonder that New York has been shut out in three of their four matches. On the flip side, Sporting has allowed just three goals this season and shut out quality attacking sides Seattle and Toronto. Real Salt Lake nabbed two at SKC last week in Sporting’s only 2016 loss. Keeper Tim Melia was the 2015 MLS Comeback Player of the Year. The Long Island native has posted all ten of his clean sheets since the start of the 2015 season. The French dual national Dia played four years at Clemson, and played for US youth teams at the U14, U18, and U20 levels. The homegrown Ellis is amazing, starting his sixth season with Sporting. Last season, he burst into the starting lineup, making 26 starts. The 30-year-old, Portuguese Cohelo (1G) is a new addition at KC and has UEFA Champions League experience with Porto and Braga. Chance Myers (1A) has been fighting the injury bug over the last few years, making only 20 appearances for Sporting over 2014 and 2015.

Advantage: Sporting KC


Kansas City’s attack vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:
Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer, and Diego Rubio vs. Connor Lade, Karl Ouimette, Zach Carroll, and Sal Zizzo (and Luis Robles)

Sporting’s three-headed attack has generated three of the club’s five goals to date this season. Former Metro Brad Davis (1G) was traded from Houston in the offseason and is amazingly in his 15th MLS campaign. His 371 MLS appearances rank third in league history. However, he will be out for this encounter, making room for Diego Rubio. Dom Dwyer (2G/1A) is looking to re-ignite his scoring touch after his output dropped by ten goals (22 to 12) from 2014 to 2015. He’s on the right track so far this year. Zusi (1A), starting his eighth season in Kansas City will be whipping balls in from the right as always.  Without defenders Perrinelle, Zubar, Baah, or Lawrence, New York will do their best with mostly a second-string back line. Short of a bizarre sequence in New England last week, the Red Bulls could have posted their first shutout of the season. As it was, allowing only a single goal was New York’s best defense effort of 2016. Lade and Zizzo will continue on the wings, and Karl Ouimette, who turned in a strong performance against the Revs, will be joined by debutant Zach Carroll. Robles who made four saves in New England, as usual will start.

Advantage: Sporting KC


The Midfields:
Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Sean Davis, and Lloyd Sam vs. Jordi Quintilla, Soni Mustivar, and Benny Feilhaber

The only change for New York will be Sean Davis filling in for the suspended Felipe, who received a questionable red card in the loss at Gillette. Davis performed admirably in his 14 appearances and four starts during his rookie year.  New York simply needs better play from the wings, especially Lloyd Sam. Mike Grella (1G) will again patrol the left for the injured Gonzalo Veron. Kljestan (1G/1A) will not only need to create, but also take shots with BWP in a funk. Benny Feilhaber (1G) made his 2016 debut in Sporting’s 2-1 home loss to RSL last week after coming back from an abdominal strain. Frenchman Mustivar is starting his second season in KC after making 20 starts and picking up 3 assists in 2015.  Quintilla (1A) was a mid-summer addition to the Sporting side last season. He delivered the deciding penalty kick against the Union that won KC the 2015 US Open Cup.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Coaches:

Peter Vermes once again has his team playing attractive ball. His clubs usually rely on strong goalkeeping and a top-notch striker to dominate, and Sporting has both of those. His side has played in four one-goal matches and KC has won three of them. Jesse Marsch’s ire at Mark Geiger notwithstanding, his club’s scorer isn’t scoring, and his missing a host of starters. Just getting through Saturday’s match without suffering an injury will be a victory unto itself.

Advantage: Sporting KC


Intangibles:

The Red Bulls are on a 4-0-2 run against Sporting, tipping the all-time series between these two MLS originals to New York’s favor. The Red Bulls/Metros are now 21-19-13 against the Sporting/Wizards since 1996. At home, the club boasts a 12-5-8 all-time record against KC. Kansas City last beat the Red Bulls nearly three years ago, on April 17, 2013, at Red Bull Arena, when Aurelien Collin scored the only goal of the match. Six of BWP’s 51 all-time Red Bulls goals have gone into Kansas City nets. Wright-Phillips has scored in four of the last five matches against SKC. Saturday’s match should be played under overcast skies, with chilly temperatures dropping into the high thirties by the match’s end. In-person attendance to date has been less than optimal, and the cold night won’t help. However, Saturday marks the second-annual Autism Awareness night, which will hopefully bring crowds to the arena.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:
Given the trajectories of these two clubs in the early going, it’s hard to see anything but a Kansas City victory. If Bradley Wright-Philips can find his scoring touch, however, New York can make a match of it. The Red Bulls will overload the middle, trying to smother Sporting’s three-man midfield. As always, New York will have to manage KC’s counter to grab points. With a scoring talent like Dwyer in the middle, Sporting will be too tough on New York’s makeshift back line. KC wins, 2-1.