Preview: New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

After a 0-2-4 start to the season, a crash out of the US Open Cup, a listless Champions League campaign, and a recent home drubbing, the New York Red Bulls will reach the end of the MLS regular season Sunday night in Kansas City.

By kickoff, New York will know whether reaching third place is a possibility, or whether the Red Bulls will be playing solely to host the play-in match next Thursday. Against an out-of form and tired Sporting side, New York must win on the road for the first time since June 8th to improve the club’s position in the Eastern standings.

Can they get the job done?


Match Information:

Sunday, October 26th at Sporting Park, 8:30p ET kickoff, TV: ESPN2

Referee: Armando Villareal

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
Kansas City, 49 points from 33 matches, 48GF/39GA, 3rd in the East, 7th in MLS, WLDWL
New York, 47 points from 33 matches, 53GF/50GA, 5th in the East, 9th in MLS, WLWWL


 

New York’s front line vs. the Sporting defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Seth Sinovic, Kevin Ellis, Aurellien Collin, and Jacob Peterson (and Andy Gruenebaum).

Short of a miracle, Wright-Phillips won’t break Lassiter and Wondolowski’s scoring record.  BWP was held to a single shot on goal against Columbus last week, and a hat trick seems unlikely. Still, the Englishman has scored in both matches against Kansas City this year. SKC will be without right back Igor Juilao, suspended by the Disciplinary Committee.  Jacob Peterson (2G/2A) will likely take his place.  With Matt Besler out with a thigh injury, New York will face a centerback pairing of the homegrown Ellis (3A) and Aurellien Collin, who has two goals on the season to go with this two red and two yellow cards.  The two yellows is by far is least in the Frenchman’s four-season MLS career.  Last year, Collin was carded 13 times.  Sinovic, Ellis, and Collin each went the full 90 in Costa Rica on Thursday.  After Kronberg allowed both goals (but made some super saves) in SKC’s Champions League loss in Costa Rica, Andy Gruenebaum should get the nod in goal for Sporting.  Gruenebaum is 6-3-2 for Sporting, with an impressive 1.14 GAA and 3 shutouts this season. 

Slight Advantage: New York


Kansas City’s attackers vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:

Soony Saad, Dom Dywer, and Graham Zusi vs. Roy Miller, Jamison Olave, Richard Eckersley, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).

Despite Sporting’s three-man front line, Dom Dwyer (22G/1A) is the lone true scoring threat.  BWP’s countryman has conceded the golden boot, but Dwyer will surely look to go right at Olave’s linemate on Sunday. And who will that be?  With Sekagya still injured and Armando suspended with yellow cards, will Petke put Miller in the center?  Or perhaps Eckersley?  Either way, Dwyer, who played the final 25 minutes in San Jose on Thursday, will be salivating.  Zusi (5G/8A) will be creating for Dwyer from the right side, and Saad (0G/3A) could be the 19th player this season to collect his first goal of the year against New York. Saad played fifty minutes in the CCL match on Thursday night.  Both Chris Duvall and Kosuke Kimura went the full 90 Wednesday night against Montreal, but with the ranks thinned, I think Duvall will get the nod on the right side. Robles has conceded a miserable eight goals over New York’s last four matches.

Advantage: Kansas City


The Midfields:

Benny Feilhaber, Lawrence Olum, and Paulo Nagamura vs. Thierry Henry, Eric Alexander, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam

New York has to press its numerical advantage in the midfield, with Kansas City only placing three men in the middle of its formation. Last week, Sporting lost 2-1 at Philly and its five-man midfield, despite holding the ball 55 percent of the time. Feilhaber (4G/6A) has only one goal and one assist over his last dozen matches, and came off after forty-one minutes in Costa Rica Thursday with an injury.  If he can’t go on Sunday, Sporting’s chances will take a major hit. Toni Dovale, who scored his single goal this year against New York in May, may shift to center to slot into Feilhaber spot. Defensive midfielder Olum’s shot output this season (14) eclipsed his combined total from his previous three seasons in the league.  Nagamura (2G/3A) has somehow been in the league for a decade while playing for four different teams.  Opposing teams have figured out Luyindula by simply running two defenders at him and getting the Frenchman to cough up the ball. Sam’s individual effort led to a fantastic goal against Columbus, but the Crew did an amazing job blunting New York’s last week. Against Columbus Henry had an off day, and when he does, it’s very difficult for the Red Bulls to accomplish their goals.

Advantage: Even


The Coaches:

Peter Vermes is suffering through a rough stretch the kind of which has rarely been seen in the Sporting era in Kansas City, but the team has the playoff experience to make a run. Still, without a healthy Besler, Chance Myers, or Ike Opara from last season’s MLS Cup-winning team, it’s been a challenge for Vermes to repeat the success of 2013.  Mike Petke admitted that his team took a bit of a vacation last week after clinching a playoff berth. Can he get his club ready to face Sporting for what may be two straight matches?

Advantage: Kansas City


Intangibles:

The Red Bulls are 0-4-3 away from Red Bull Arena since that June win in New England.  Sporting Park is far from a fortress, however.  KC is only 6-4-6 at home this season, and is currently on a poor 3-6-1 streak in league play.  Sporting crashed out of the Champions League Thursday night, losing two-nil at Saprissa, and losing Feilhaber and Juilao to injury. New York is 8-14-4 all-time at KC, and the all-time series is tied at 19-19-12. No current Red Bull has scored more than two goals against Sporting. New York is on a 2-0-1 run against KC, with a 2-1 home win on September 6th and a 1-1 away draw on May 27th.  If these teams meet next Thursday in the play-in match, the winner will endure three matches in eight days, including the first leg of the Conference Semis.  Sunday’s match will be played at the same time as Game 5 of the World Series, possibly cutting into the usual sellout crowd at Sporting Park. The weather will be perfect, with a low of 66 degrees in Kansas City and a ten percent chance of rain.

Advantage: Even


Prediction:

Given New York’s less than impressive road record, the last thing Mike Petke wants is two straight trips to KC.  Sporting is a bit of a mess right now, and with the loss in Costa Rica Thursday, will be tired and perhaps demoralized.  With two makeshift defenses on the field, I think New York wins 3-2 with BWP bagging two goals to mark his name in the MLS record book. Dwyer and Collin score for KC, before Henry scores his final regular season goal in the New York shirt to lift the Red Bulls to a home playoff game next week.

  • Andrew Bissonette

    The prediction sounds like too much wishful thinking for a scripted finish. I think its 2-1 Red Bulls. Sam grabs one on a counter-attack early. SKC dominates the rest of the half and scores about 5 minutes before halftime. Then NY scores again on the counter about an hour in. SKC continues to dominate the run of play until the end but NY emphasizes the phrase “bend but don’t break”. However, Columbus gets the result and NY plays host to SKC in 3 days.