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Final

Preview: Top two teams in East battle as SKC host NYRB

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs NEW YORK RED BULLS
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
August 26, 2012 (WEEK 25, MLS Game #244)
9 pm ET / 8 pm CT (ESPN2/Deportes; GolTV; RDS2)

An intriguing match is ahead in front of an ESPN2 audience on Sunday night when the top two teams in the Eastern Conference meet as Sporting Kansas City play host to the New York Red Bulls. Sporting pulled to within a point of the overall lead in MLS with their third victory on the trot last weekend, a 1-0 win at Toronto FC. The Red Bulls remained unbeaten at home on the year and stayed within two points of SKC, coming back for a 3-2 win against the Portland Timbers.

REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda. AR1 (bench): Paul Scott; AR2 (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Jasen Anno
MLS Career: 72 games; FC/gm: 24.4; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 14; pens: 11

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE HERE (PDF)

INJURY REPORT:

  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY – OUT: DF Cyprian Hedrick (L fibula fracture); DOUBTFUL: GK Jon Kempin (R ankle fracture); FW Jacob Peterson (R shoulder sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Bobby Convey (R hamstring strain)
  • NEW YORK RED BULLS – OUT: DF Rafa Marquez (L calf strain); GK Ryan Meara (hip injury)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers … NY: Joel Lindpere
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Julio Cesar, Jimmy Nielsen, Paulo Nagamura, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi … NY: Kenny Cooper, Connor Lade, Victor Palsson

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (43 meetings): Sporting 17 wins (2 shootout), 56 goals … Red Bulls 17 wins (2 shootout), 54 goals … Ties 9
AT KC (23 meetings): Sporting 14 wins (2 shootout), 36 goals … Red Bulls 7 wins (1 shootout), 25 goals … Ties 2
RETURN MATCHES: 9/19: New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. ET; 10/20: New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. ET

LAST YEAR (MLS):
4/30: NY 1, KC 0 (Rodgers 22)
10/15: KC 2, NY 0 (Bunbury 57; Sapong 74)
• This is the first of three meetings over the final three months of the season.
• The teams split their two meetings a season ago. In each of the last six matches between the clubs, over the last three years, a team has won by shutout.
• Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. NY: P5 W2 L3 D0 … Hans Backe v KC: P4 W3 L1 D0

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City extended their winning streak to three games, getting the game’s lone goal for a victory against Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. Sporting are in first place in the Eastern Conference, with 46 points from 25 matches.

LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: TOR 0, SKC 1

• The game's lone goal came in the 83rd minute. SKC's Graham Zusi tapped a dangerous free kick into the path of Kei Kamara and his shot deflected off the defensive wall and the fingertips of goalkeeper Milos Kocic before settling in the back of the net.
• Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made three changes to the team that defeated D.C. United 2-1 at Livestrong Sporting Park. Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic came in at fullback for - Michael Harrington and Neven Markovic, and Julio Cesar started in midfield for Michael Thomas.
• SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-3-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Paulo Nagamura, Roger Espinoza, Julio Cesar (Lawrence Olum 88) - Graham Zusi, Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara (C.J. Sapong 86).

TEAM NEWS
• Sporting’s three-game winning streak is their longest since opening the league campaign with seven consecutive victories. They had won back-to-back MLS games just once since suffering their first defeat of the season April 21.
• The victory was the seventh away from home for Sporting, most road wins in MLS. Their .615 winning percentage on the road also leads the league.
• “What I take away from the game is that it is another victory on the road. I think right now we have the best record in the lead,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes. “To be successful in any league you have to be successful on the road so from that perspective I appreciate the effort and also getting a clean sheet and not giving up a goal.”
• Graham Zusi recorded his third assist in the last four games. He pulled back into a tie atop the league assist table with 11 for the season, level with LA’s Landon Donovan and D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario.
• Kei Kamara scored his second goal in the last four games. The goal was the first directly from a free kick for Sporting this season, and their first goal scored from outside the penalty area.
• “Nagamura got the foul which is great. It was one of those where the ‘keeper got caught the wrong way and all that was in my head was to hit the ball on target. I got the bounce off it and that bounce gave us the three points,” said Kamara.
• Since the start of July, Kamara has four goals and two assists. He leads MLS with 96 attempts at goal. Over the last four matches, the front three of Kamara, Zusi and Teal Bunbury have combined for four goals and four assists.
• “Teal’s pressure up top has just been excellent,” Vermes said. “He puts teams under pressure because he can stretch them with his speed. It opens the field for us to be able to play underneath. So even when he doesn’t score, he does so much for us that it’s hard to take him off.  The thing that’s big about Kei is when he plays out wide, very seldom does the other team – if they’re playing their regular players – have the proper matchup. So a lot of times teams have to make the adjustment and put another guy out there to mark him, and all of a sudden that changes the way they play.”
• The Sporting back four of Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic was back together again for the first time since July 14, which was a 2-0 victory at Columbus. That quartet also started the first eight games of the season together; in the 12 games they have been together, SKC are 10-1-1, allowing just four goals.
• “I thought they were good,” Vermes said. “This wasn’t an easy game to play, because [TFC] were hitting long balls all over the place. When they’ve got big boys up front like Johnson and Hassli and they’re dropping long balls into them, you can get hurt by the ball bouncing the wrong way.”
• For the eighth time this season in league play, and the 11th time in 30 matches in all competitions, Vermes did not use his full complement of three substitutions.
• “Sometimes I don’t like messing with the continuity unless someone is really struggling physically or someone is not in form and I didn’t think that anybody was struggling on the field,” said Vermes. “Before we scored I was actually going to make a sub, I changed it around a little bit for tactical reasons, but I think at the end the two guys that came in did really well for us.”

NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls made it two wins in a row and extended their home unbeaten streak, coming back for a 3-2 victory against the Portland Timbers on Sunday evening at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls are in second place in the Eastern Conference, with 44 points from 25 games.

LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: NY 3, POR 2

• The Timbers took the lead after just eight minutes. Set free down the right flank by Kosuke Kimura, Sal Zizzo carried into the area before laying a square pass for Bright Dike to finish in the penalty area.
• The Timbers doubled their lead in the 32nd minute after hitting on a counter attack following a turnover near midfield. A quick passing sequence on the edge of area saw Darlington Nagbe get onto the end of a pass from Zizzo and roll a shot past Gaudette off the inside of the left post.
• New York pulled a goal back 11 minutes later. Kenny Cooper, who came on as a 36th minute substitute, headed home a Jan Gunnar Solli cross from the right flank.
• The Red Bulls then equalized through Tim Cahill just before halftime on a controversial play. Dax McCarty hit a shot that deflected off defender David Horst’s outstretched arms and back to Cahill, who buried the rebound. The goal stood despite claims referee Jason Anno blew his whistle and signaled for a penalty kick before changing his call.
• The Red Bulls hit for the winner seven minutes from the end. After a corner kick was scrambled clear, Solli drove a cross back into the area and Heath Pearce headed home inside the right post for the decisive tally.
• Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe made one change that defeated the Houston Dynamo 2-0 at Red Bull Arena. Jan Gunnar Solli came into the team in place of Kenny Cooper.
• NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-2): Bill Gaudette - Connor Lade, Heath Pearce, Markus Holgersson, Roy Miller (Kenny Cooper 36) - Dax McCarty - Jan Gunnar Solli, Tim Cahill, Joel Lindpere (Teemu Tainio 73) - Thierry Henry, Sebastien Le Toux.

TEAM NEWS
• The Red Bulls won for a fourth consecutive game at Red Bull Arena, and remained undefeated this season on their home ground, now 9-0-3 in Harrison, New Jersey.
• “The way we are performing away we would have lost the game for sure. So, I think also being in this home stretch, winning most of the games, [we] have to kind of believe that you can win every game, whoever you play,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. “But going two down is normally a little bit too much. To score at least two goals at the end of the first half it was a gift definitely.”
• Tim Cahill netted his first MLS goal, banging in the rebound from the controversial play at the end of the first half. Cahill has a goal and two assists in three games since joining the Red Bulls.

WATCH: Gaudette reacts to comeback win over Portland

• Kenny Cooper scored his 14th goal of the season, now tied for second place in the MLS Golden Boot standings, with RSL’s Álvaro Sabório, four goals behind San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski.
• Cooper came on shortly after the half-hour mark, in place of fullback Roy Miller. Two of Cooper’s goals this season have come as a substitute.
• “You probably have to go back about 20 years the last time I made a sub after 33 minutes. Or if it has happened before I’m not sure,” said Backe. “But, I mean the way we defended the back four, even if we make mistakes at midfield, I was trying to attack, you have this feeling the back four have to clean up. They still have to save you, even if you make mistakes higher up on the pitch. Of course going two down, a lot of players played under their normal level of standards so it was quite easy just to get Kenny [Cooper] on the pitch, I mean we needed a goalscorer.”
• Jan Gunnar Solli recorded his third two-assist game in his MLS career. Of his 11 career assists since coming to the league before the start of last season, six have come in multiple-assist matches.
• “Portland were good in closing us down but we got a lot of plays on the sides even though they tried to follow us,” said Solli. “Both Connor [Lade] and I didn’t have a lot of space in the second half, they gave us options to play and we kept the ball better in the second half and I think we deserved the third goal.
• For the fourth time in seven starts since coming to the club, Bill Gaudette was beaten for multiple goals in a game. He also has three shutouts in that time; the Red Bulls are 4-2-1 when he has started since his acquisition from the LA Galaxy.
• “Bill, these games he’s been playing, I think he hasn’t [made] one mistake so far,” Backe said. “He came up big today with three, four very, very important saves when they had free runners. He’s been great.”
• The meeting with Portland was the last match against Western Conference opposition for the Red Bulls this season, coming amidst a stretch of seven games during which they will meet teams currently in playoff positions in five of them (two vs. Houston, two vs. Sporting KC, one vs. D.C. United).
• “We have high expectations of ourselves as individuals and as a team and that’s what makes us a good team,” said defender Heath Pearce. “We obviously finished the game with three points today which is the most important thing, but as individuals and as a group we didn’t perform up to the standards that we set.”