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Eastern Conference Championship

New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City: MLS Match Preview

NEW YORK RED BULLS vs SPORTING KANSAS CITY
RED BULL ARENA, Harrison, N.J.
April 17, 2013 (WEEK 8, MLS Game #61)
7:30 p.m. ET (MSG+; KSMO)

A key Eastern Conference match is ahead at midweek as the New York Red Bulls return home to take on Sporting Kansas City at Red Bull Arena in a meeting of playoff contenders from a season ago. The Red Bulls won for the second time in three outings last weekend, a 2-0 victory at D.C. United. Sporting had the weekend off after their last match – which was also a victory against D.C. United, by a 1-0 scoreline at home on April 6 that extended their current shutout streak to more than seven hours.

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE (PDF)

REFEREE: Allen Chapman. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): C.J. Morgante; 4th: Jose Carlos Rivero
MLS Career: 14 games; FC/gm: 20.7; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 1; pens: 3
 

DISABLED LIST: KC: Teal Bunbury; Jacob Peterson
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (46 meetings): Red Bulls 17 wins (2 shootout), 55 goals … Sporting 18 wins (2 shootout), 59 goals … Ties 11
AT NEW YORK (22 meetings): Red Bulls 10 wins (1 shootout), 29 goals … Sporting 4 wins (0 shootout), 22 goals …
Ties 8
RETURN MATCHES: 8/3: Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m. CT (NBCSN)
2012 (MLS):
8/26: KC 1, NY 1 (Kamara 4 – own goal 28)
9/19: NY 0, KC 2 (Sapong 12; Kamara 19)
10/20: NY 0, KC 0

  • Sporting came away with points on both of their visits to Red Bull Arena a year ago, winning 2-0 on Sept. 19 then playing to a scoreless draw on Oct. 20, as the teams met three times in the final three months of the season.
  • New York last won in the series on April 30, 2011, the last of three consecutive victories vs. Kansas City (all by shutout). In the four meetings since, SKC has won twice, with two draws.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. NY: P8 W3 L2 D2 … Mike Petke vs. KC: first game

NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls made it two wins from three games with their road triumph of the season, defeating D.C. United 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at RFK Stadium. The Red Bulls are in a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 8 points from 7 matches.
 

LAST MATCH

  • The game’s two goals came within a seven-minute stretch in the first half. In the 29th minute, Thierry Henry found himself with time and space outside the box and he launched a classy right-footed drive toward the bottom right corner that beat a diving Bill Hamid.
  • Seven minutes later, New York doubled the lead when Jamisón Olave redirected a flick-on header by Brandon Barklage at the tail end of a beautiful service from Juninho for his third goal of the season.
  • Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke made two changes to the team that suffered a 3-1 defeat by the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Roy Miller came in at left back for Heath Pearce, and Thierry Henry started up top in place of Peguy Luyindula.
  • NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-1-1): Luis Robles - Brandon Barklage, Jamison Olave, Markus Holgersson, Roy Miller - Dax McCarty - Eric Alexander (Kosuke Kimura 86), Juninho, Jonny Steele (Fabian Espindola 65) - Tim Cahill (Ruben Bover 90) - Thierry Henry.

TEAM NEWS

  • The victory was the first on the road this season for the Red Bulls, in their fifth away match, and snapped a three-game losing slide away from Harrison. The last Red Bulls road victory was in the regular season finale a year ago, a 3-0 defeat of Philadelphia.
  • “We did score on the road. So that’s usually enough for teams to win. And somehow we’re doing it,” said Thierry Henry. “Today we scored two, but one of the main things was that we didn’t concede, and we can build on that and make sure we can have a good game at home and try and go on a run.”
  • Red Bulls center back Jamisón Olave equaled his MLS career-high with his third goal of the season. Olave netted three goals in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons with Real Salt Lake; he has 13 goals in his six-year MLS career.
  • “If you look at someone like Olave, and you understand what he brings, he is invaluable. If you expect things that he doesn’t bring or expect too much of him and you make him, you expect him to be the main guy in the back building – controlling out of the back, holding the ball – it’s not his forte,” said Petke. “He’s a ‘cleanerupper,’ to be honest with you. He’s a hard tackler. He’s a bruiser in a way. And he reads the game well. And for that, he does everything – he’s phenomenal. And he’s a center back, leading scorer? He’s a man after my own heart. I love it.” Henry made his first start since March 16 and scored for a second time in three matches in leading the Red Bulls to the win at D.C. United.
  • “His goal was great. And he could’ve probably had a couple more. A couple unlucky bounces, a couple unlucky situations,” said Petke. “But, listen: Thierry’s the best player in the league whenever he wants to be. Tonight, he showed how valuable he is. So, it’s great to have him.”
  • After four games out of the first team, fullback Roy Miller returned to the starting lineup, his first start since March 30.
  • “That was a reward for Roy, for handling the whole situation after his comments especially in the paper and the performances. He’s the first one, stand up. He’s a professional. And he’s worked hard over the last several weeks and he had a good performance in the reserve game in Chicago,” said Petke. “If I’m not going to reward my players for doing the right things and earning things, then why have a reserve league, why have a bench up? I think he’s earned the start tonight and I think he’s done well.”
  • Juninho Pernambucano collected his second assist in MLS, coming in the last three games.
  • “I think we connected a lot better defensively. We really tightened up gaps that we were letting happen against Chicago so, for us it was a positive performance,” said midfielder Dax McCarty, who was credited with his first assist of the season. “I always say when you play with good players, it’s going be easier to play with them and I think throughout the season its going get better and better. He’s fantastic with the ball at his feet, so it makes my job easier and hopefully I make his easier.”

READ: Following big win vs. United, Red Bulls may be forced to juggle lineup midweek

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City return to league action following a weekend off, their last match a 2-0 home victory vs. D.C. United on April 5. Sporting are in third place in the Eastern Conference with 11 points from 6 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • The game's only goal came with a minute remaining in regulation time. Soony Saad stole possession of the ball on the left flank, then nutmegged United's Marcelo Saragosa at the byeline before cutting the ball back to Claudio Bieler just outside the 6-yard box, and he buried a left-footed shot inside the far post.
  • It was one of just two shots on frame for Sporting, while KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen had to make just one save.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made no changes to the team that defeated the Montréal Impact 2-0 at Sporting Park.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-4-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Oriol Rosell (Peterson Joseph 85) - Graham Zusi, Paulo Nagamura (Lawrence Olum 90), Benny Feilhaber (Soony Saad 83), C.J. Sapong - Claudio Bieler.

READ: Sporting waiting to hear if Norwich City want to make Kei Kamara loan permanent

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen currently have a 429-minute shutout streak alive, following the win vs. D.C. United. The streak is now the second-longest in club history; KC holds the second-longest streak in MLS history of 681 minutes without conceding a goal, April 19-May 27, 2000.
  • “It’s only good that we don’t give up goals. That’s the great thing. I care less about the streaks. It’s great when you don’t give up goals. I say it all the time, if you don’t give up goals, you not only get results but I think you set yourself up as time goes on to be able to win the important games because you’re not giving the easy chances away,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes. “It’s a big part of this. Defense wins championships. There’s no doubt about it. You have to be able to defend.”
  • Over the stretch of their four-shutout streak, including scoreless draws against Chicago on March 16 and New England on March 23, a 2-0 victory over Montreal on March 30 and the 1-0 home win against D.C. United on April 6, Sporting gave up just three shots on goal total. Nielsen has made just eight saves in his first six starts.
  • “I say it all the time; I think he truly is the best goalkeeper in the league. He’s always connected to the game,” said Vermes. “It’s hard to do that for 90 minutes as a goalkeeper because it’s not like he gets a lot of shots. So all of a sudden, the 70th minute and boom you have to be on. That’s where he is excellent.”
  • For the second match in the four-shutout string, Sporting’s first-choice back four of right back Chance Myers, center backs Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin and left back Seth Sinovic played together. Mechack Jerome filled in at right back for the Chicago and New England games while Myers was out with a quad strain, and Ike Opara took Besler's spot when he was on U.S. national team duty.
  • “That just proves it's a team system,” Besler said. “It's not the back four. It's more the system and the way the team plays. It's the pressuring style, and it makes it easy to defend if the pressure's good. It just proves that guys can step in, and if they buy into what our team's trying to do, then it makes it easy for everyone.”
  • Claudio Bieler scored for the second time in as many matches to give Sporting the victory vs. United; he now has four goals in six matches, also scoring in each of the first two games of the season.
  • “As time goes by we start learning the places where he likes to hang out at and how he plays. I realize as soon as you take it to the line, he’s at the top of the box because all the defenders are rushing in,” said Soony Saad. “ … It’s good to watch him finish and it’s good to know that you have a finisher on the team that can always put a ball like that.”
  • Making his fifth appearance of the season, his fourth in a reserve role, Saad recorded his first assist of the season. It’s the second of his MLS career in 18 league appearances; he has one goal.
  • “This is my third year in the league and I feel like as I have gotten older I have realized my role. Right now my role is to come in and make an impact any way I can whether it’s defending a lead or trying to score a couple goals to get ahead,” said Saad. “I just know to stay positive the whole time and I’m going to get some breaks here and there, and I got one today.”
  • On their off weekend, Sporting played University of Missouri-Kansas City in a friendly, winning 3-0. Soony Saad scored two goals and C.J. Sapong added the third.