Preview: Red Bulls, SKC clash again for playoff positioning
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
RED BULL ARENA, Harrison, N.J.
October 20, 2012 (WEEK 32, MLS Game #306)
7 p.m. ET (MSG; KSMO)
Meeting for the third time over the season’s final two months, the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City will meet in yet another game with huge playoff implications when they face off Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls still have not clinched their place in the MLS Cup Playoffs, following their 2-0 home loss to Chicago in their last match, but can do so with a victory. Sporting are still chasing both the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield, after their 1-1 draw at Columbus in the last match before the international break.
REFEREE: Silviu Petrescu. AR1 (bench): Daniel Belleau; AR2 (opposite): Corey Parker; 4th: Geoff Gamble
MLS Career: 57 games; FC/gm: 27.5; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 8; pens: 7
NEW YORK RED BULLS – OUT: DF Brandon Barklage (L plantar fascia injury); GK Ryan Meara (L hip surgery) …
SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: FW Teal Bunbury (L knee ACL tear); DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); DOUBTFUL: MF Roger Espinoza (R ankle sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: NY: Connor Lade, Joel Lindpere … KC: Julio Cesar, Paulo Nagamura
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: NY: Kenny Cooper, Wilman Conde, Thierry Henry, Victor Palsson … KC: Matt Besler, Chance Myers, Jimmy Nielsen, Lawrence Olum, Graham Zusi
ALL-TIME (45 meetings): Red Bulls 17 wins (2 shootout), 55 goals …Sporting 18 wins (2 shootout), 59 goals … Ties 10
AT NEW YORK (21 meetings): Red Bulls 10 wins (1 shootout), 29 goals … Sporting 4 wins (0 shootout), 22 goals … Ties 7
2012 (MLS) - 8/26: KC 1, NY 1 (Kamara 4 – own goal 28); 9/19: NY 0, KC 2 (Sapong 12; Kamara 19)
• The teams are meeting for the third time this season, all coming over the final three months of the season.
• A month ago, C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara scored as Sporting ended the Red Bulls long home unbeaten streak with a 2-0 victory at Red Bull Arena. The teams played to a 1-1 draw on Aug. 26 at Livestrong Sporting Park, as Kamara scored at both ends, giving KC an early lead then scoring into his own net for the equalizer.
• Coaches record: Hans Backe v KC: P6 W3 L2 D1 … Peter Vermes vs. NY: P7 W3 L3 D1
• Sporting took the lead 12 minutes in. From a free kick straight out from the Red Bulls goal, Graham Zusi’s curling shot clanged off the crossbar. The rebound fell to Matt Besler, who passed the ball to C.J. Sapong, and he quickly turned and rifled a shot past goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.
• Kei Kamara doubled the lead for SKC seven minutes later. Kamara broke away from Wilman Conde’s marking at the near post and headed home a Zusi corner kick with ease for his 11th goal of the season.
• NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-4-1-1): Bill Gaudette - Connor Lade, Heath Pearce, Markus Holgersson, Wilman Conde - Dax McCarty (Kenny Cooper 46), Teemu Tainio (Sebastien Le Toux 74), Rafa Marquez, Joel Lindpere (Lloyd Sam 69) - Tim Cahill - Thierry Henry.
• SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Julio Cesar - Paulo Nagamura (Lawrence Olum 90), Roger Espinoza (Jacob Peterson 79) - Graham Zusi (Oriol Rosell 90), C.J. Sapong, Kei Kamara.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls suffered a second defeat in three home games, falling 2-0 to the Chicago Fire on Oct. 6 at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls are in third place in the Eastern Conference, with 53 points from 32 games.
• The Fire finally broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. Fire midfielder Chris Rolfe played Sherjill MacDonald in behind the Red Bulls defense, and he used his speed to race in on goal and beat Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles easily with a shot to the far post.
• MacDonald beat Robles again to double the Fire’s lead in the 78th minute. Daniel Paladini made a run through the center of the field before slotting a through ball through MacDonald, who again used his pace to beat the defense and slip a shot past Robles.
WATCH: Red Bulls go down at RBA
• Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe made one change to the side that took a 4-1 win against Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena. Jan Gunnar Solli came back into the side in place of Lloyd Sam.
• NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-4-2): Luis Robles - Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Heath Pearce (Rafa Marquez 75), Wilman Conde (Connor Lade 46) - Jan Gunnar Solli (Sebastien Le Toux 71), Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Joel Lindpere - Kenny Cooper, Thierry Henry.
• After going nearly a full calendar year and 16 games without a home loss, the Red Bulls have now lost two of their last three at Red Bull Arena.
• “The wrong teams to (play) against, Kansas City and Chicago, definitely,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. “I don’t think it’s a lack of energy. I think we started a little bit slow with the first 10 or 15 (minutes), but after that, I had a great feeling that we were controlling possession and also creating two, three really good chances before they scored. So it’s small margins. They took their chances.”
• The loss also kept the club from clinching a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. With a win vs. Sporting KC, or a Columbus loss, they will be guaranteed a spot; they can also get in with a tie if Houston loses or Columbus ties over the weekend.
• “We had the same type of game against Kansas City, the only thing was that they did not score early, but we got what we deserved,” Thierry Henry said. “They’re a better team, more organized, wanted it more. Having said that, we’re still not out.”
• Said midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli: “I know we’re not performing as we normally can. And especially at home, it’s just frustrating as the game goes. I feel like we created chances in the first half, in the second half I felt like it was a battle out there and neither team was creating many chances until they scored the first goal. And then we kind of totally tell that I feel like we didn’t have any energy to deal with it and try to chase that goal.”
• There will be selection concerns for the return match with Sporting. Fullback Brandon Barklage suffered a plantar fascia injury in training and is not expected to be available. Wilman Conde, who has been holding down the left back spot, will also not feature due to personal reasons.
• “We can probably choose from Connor Lade, Heath Pearce, [Jan Gunnar] Solli," Backe said. "[Jonathan] Borrajo is a fourth option, but two of these four guys have to play on Saturday."
• Roy Miller could also figure, but as one of three Red Bulls players on international duty (along with Tim Cahill and Joel Lindpere), he is not expected to be put into the first team. “Normally when they are coming back, they start on the bench,” said Backe.
• After missing the Toronto FC match through injury, Rafa Marquez came on for the final 15 minutes against Chicago, replacing Heath Pearce in central defense.
• “Rafa, from the back four, can jump into the midfield, so we could push Tim Cahill up higher on the pitch. And also with his precise passing game, final passes when we were losing one-nil,” said Backe.
• Goalkeeper Luis Robles started for a second consecutive match, though Bill Gaudette has returned to full training and could be available for selection vs. KC.
• “Looking back on both goals, we had a breakdown in our back four and those are type the type of goals that we need to avoid if we really want to make it into the playoffs,” said Robles. “I’d have to look at the replay the first one it looked like a tough call, maybe he was offside, but he did well, he finished well. And then the second one, I mean that can’t happen, it’s just the way it is.”
• “They are both banging on the door, they are very even,” Backe said. “It’s mostly having to have a look at every session, how sharp they are. When they’re that even it has to be that way, the sharpest guy.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City extended their undefeated streak to 10 games, despite being pegged back into a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew on Oct. 7 at Crew Stadium. Sporting are in first place in the Eastern Conference, with 59 points from 32 matches.
• Sporting took the lead through C.J. Sapong in the 10th minute. He slipped unnoticed between defenders Chad Marshall and Sebastián Miranda and had plenty of space to snap a header onto the left post from a deflected cross off the foot of Graham Zusi, then finishing as the rebound fell kindly back to him.
• But there were once again late heroics for the Crew, leveling in the first minute of stoppage time. Emilio Rentería put in a cross from the right and Eddie Gaven got loose 10 yards from the near post, heading past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
WATCH: SKC settle for draw in CLB
• Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made no changes to the team that defeated the Chicago Fire 2-0 at Livestrong Sporting Park.
• SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Julio Cesar - Paulo Nagamura, Roger Espinoza (Aurelien Collin 94+) - Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Graham Zusi (Jacob Peterson 87).
• Sporting extended their undefeated streak to 10 games, their longest of the season, and four games shy of the club record. They are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions.
• Five points behind the San Jose Earthquakes entering the weekend, Sporting can only win the Supporters’ Shield with victories in their last two games and losses in both for San Jose. Sporting can clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference if they better Chicago’s result vs. New England over the weekend.
• There has to be a major slip-up on San Jose's part. Right now, it doesn't look like there's going to be, especially with the way their schedule looks coming up,” said Vermes. “For us, the whole end goal was trying to make the playoffs, and then try to get in the position to have homefield advantage for the playoffs. Right now, we're keeping ourselves in that position, which is good.”
• C.J. Sapong scored his third goal in the last five games, also with an assist in that time. “We can't let the outside factors have a say on what we're doing,” said Sapong. “We know what we need to do and we know how we play. We just need to stick to how we play.”
• Graham Zusi regained the MLS assist lead with his 15th of the season, one more than the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan. Zusi featured for the USA in both of their World Cup qualifiers, including the second at Livestrong Sporting Park vs. Guatemala.
• “Zusi obviously had a great game the last time he played, and hopefully he gets another run at it,” left back Seth Sinovic said. “Kei's got a lot of traveling to do. Hopefully, they both come back fresh.”
• Suffering an ankle injury late in stoppage time, Roger Espinoza was not fit to join the Honduras national team for their two World Cup qualifiers. He is listed as doubtful on the club’s injury report for this weekend’s match.
• If Espinoza cannot go, Graham Zusi could drop into a midfield role, with Jacob Peterson remaining in a wide position. “I like what he does up front more,” Vermes said of Peterson.
• For a third consecutive match, Lawrence Olum was preferred to Aurelien Collin in central defense, though Collin came on for the stoppage-time period after the injury to Espinoza.
• “The coach just wants me to rest and get prepared for the playoffs,” Collin sid. “So I've been resting, and I'm perfect now. [Olum] has been doing a good job, he's done everything they asked him to do. I'm aware of my position, I respect everything, I'm working out and I'm ready for whatever.”
• SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen has 14 shutouts this season, tied for second-most in a single season in MLS history. If he posts shutouts in the final two games of the season, he will equal the all-time MLS record set in 2000 by Kansas City’s Tony Meola.
• “When they score in the last few minutes, you're standing with a mixed feeling,” said Nielsen. “But it's part of the game – we've been in situations where we're the team that's chasing the goal. Unfortunately, we couldn't hold up for 90-plus minutes.”