New York Red Bulls 2, Sporting Kansas City 1 | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Recap
A spirited comeback effort by the New York Red Bulls dumped the defending MLS Cup champions, Sporting Kansas City, out of the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, after a 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena on Thursday.
The league's leading scorers in the regular season, Dom Dwyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips, traded goals in the second half, before Wright-Phillips' second of the night – a header in the 90th minute – gave the Red Bulls the win and helped them move on in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011.
New York advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and will play No. 1 seed and Atlantic Cup rivals D.C. United in a home-and-away series beginning on Sunday (4 pm ET, Univision Deportes).
Thursday's Knockout Round game was a rematch of the regular season finale played on Sunday, which New York also won, 2-0, at Sporting Park.
Red Bulls star Thierry Henry returned to the lineup, after missing Sunday's game with a double Achilles injury. Despite being an injury concern heading into the match, Sporting playmaker Benny Feilhaber (ankle) got the start as well, as did defender Matt Besler, who has struggled with thigh and hamstring concerns in recent months.
The teams began the game with an emphasis on defense, with the game opening up as the first 45 wore on. Though both teams had chances, the Red Bulls had the majority of the early looks. In the 17th minute, New York had a golden opportunity, as the ball trickled over to an open Tim Cahill in the box off a free kick, but the Australian international could only blast the chance over the goal.
An open header in the 32nd minute by Wright-Phillips off a Lloyd Sam cross flew just over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Henry took a ball in the left channel, but pressure from Sporting's defense meant the Frenchman was forced to hurry his shot, and it sailed wide of the far post.
Sporting got their best chance of the half in the 35th minute, when a centering pass from Dwyer made its way to Paulo Nagamura, whose sidefooted effort forced a save from Red Bulls 'keeper Luis Robles.
New York were nearly able to capitalize on a mistake by Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg a few minutes after the break, when a punched clearance off a free kick bounced straight to Dax McCarty. The midfielder's reaction header ultimately bounced just wide of the mark.
The game ultimately turned when Feilhaber intercepted a ball near the center circle, and after turning upfield on a quick counterattack sent a weighted pass over to Dwyer, who slotted the ball across the goal to open the scoring on the night in the 53rd minute.
Following the goal, New York increased the pressure as they pushed for an equalizer. Five minutes after Dwyer's tally, Eric Alexander found a ball in the box, and his header off the turf was deflected just wide of goal. Then, Henry took a layoff from Cahill in the 72nd minute, but pressure from Aurelien Collin forced the sweeping chance over the goal.
The tying goal came in the 77th minute, as substitute Peguy Luyindula took a long feed through the midfield from McCarty, sent a short pass to Henry, who sent it quickly along to MLS Golden Boot winner Wright-Phillips, and his deflected shot went past Kronberg.
Wright-Phillips then doubled his tally on the night after taking an open header in the box off Ambroise Oyongo's cross in the final minute of regulation to complete the comeback.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Bradley Wright-Phillips||Played his way into the game, and continued his strong regular-season form with a brace to complete the comeback|
|2||Peguy Luyindula||Was the final piece to make New York's attack click after coming off the bench, and set up both goals|
|3||Benny Feilhaber||Despite the injury worry, battled all night on both ends for SKC, and orchestrated Dwyer's goal|