Preview: Red Bulls, Sporting collide in Eastern showdown

Sporting Kansas City vs. New York (image)

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SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs NEW YORK RED BULLS
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.

3 p.m. CT (TeleFutura; KSMO; MSG)
October 15, 2011 (WEEK 31; MLS Game 292)

Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls meet in a real six-pointer in the MLS Cup Playoffs ambitions for both clubs Saturday afternoon at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting are sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference and can seal a playoff spot with a victory, but nothing is secured without the full three points. The Red Bulls are gamely hanging on to a tie for ninth place overall and the final two wild card spots - and yet are only four points out of the top spot in the conference with two games to play.

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REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Adam Wienckowski; JAR (opposite): Brian Poeschel; 4th: Edvin Jurisevic
MLS Career: 211 games; FC/gm: 25.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 57; pens: 43

INJURY REPORT: SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: DF Daneil Cyrus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); PROBABLE: DF Matt Besler (L knee inflammation) ... NEW YORK RED BULLS - OUT: DF Chris Albright (R calf strain); MF Sacir Hot (R knee surgery); MF Carl Robinson (R knee contusion)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: None
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Omar Bravo, Aurelien Collin ... NY: Mehdi Ballouchy, Joel Lindpere, Roy Miller, Dane Richards, Luke Rodgers
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Julio Cesar, Birahim Diop, Graham Zusi ... NY: Thierry Henry, Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Teemu Tainio

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (42 meetings): Sporting 16 wins (2 shootout), 54 goals ... Red Bulls 17 wins (2 shootout), 54 goals ... Ties 9
AT KC (22 meetings): Sporting 13 wins (2 shootout), 34 goals ... Red Bulls 7 wins (1 shootout), 25 goals ... Ties 2

  • In their first meeting this season, Luke Rodgers scored the game's only goal to lead the Red Bulls to victory, April 30 at Red Bull Arena.
  • The Red Bulls have won their last three games vs. Kansas City, all by shutout. Sporting have not scored in their last 280 minutes vs. the Red Bulls, since winning the second of a pair of 1-0 decisions in 2009.
  • The last five matches between the teams have all been shutouts.
  • When Kansas City won in 2009 at the Meadowlands, it was the first victory by a road team in the series since 2005.
  • Coaches record: Hans Backe vs. KC: P3 W3 L0 D0 ... Peter Vermes v NY: P4 W1 L3 D0

LAST MEETING (MLS)
4/30: NY 1, KC 0 (Rodgers 22)

  • The Red Bulls had a glorious chance to take an early lead in the 13th minute when Dwayne De Rosario was adjudged to have been held back in the area by Sporting midfielder Stephane Auvray by referee Andrew Chapin. But SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen dove to his left to parry Rafael Márquez's attempt.
  • But the Red Bulls made no mistake in the 22nd minute. Thierry Henry flicked a quickly-taken free kick into the path of De Rosario on the right flank. The Canadian international struck a low cross into the 6-yard box, where Luke Rodgers turned it past Nielsen.
  • NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-2): Bouna Coundoul - Jan Gunnar Solli, Rafael Marquez, Tim Ream, Roy Miller - Teemu Tainio (Carl Robinson 46) - Dane Richards, Dwayne De Rosario (Mehdi Ballouchy 80), Joel Lindpere - Luke Rodgers (Juan Agudelo 46), Thierry Henry
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-4-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Michael Harrington, Aurelien Collin, Julio Cesar, Korede Aiyegbusi - Stephane Auvray (Milos Stojcev 64) - Kei Kamara, Davy Arnaud, Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong (Ryan Smith 46) - Teal Bunbury

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City went back out on the road and came away with a vital point, reaching a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 1 at Buck Shaw Stadium. Sporting have 45 points from 32 matches on the season, now in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The game's goals came 50 seconds apart deep into the match. In the 85th minute, Steven Beitashour sent in a long cross from well out on the right and Chris Wondolowski ran onto it at the far post, burying a left-footed volley.
  • But almost from the kickoff, Sporting responded. C.J. Sapong sent a through ball in behind a pulled-up Quakes defense and Teal Bunbury ran onto it, hammering a low shot past San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that got a late winner in a 2-1 win against the Columbus Crew at Livestrong Sporting Park. Jeferson and Teal Bunbury came into the side, in place of Graham Zusi and C.J. Sapong.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Davy Arnaud, Julio Cesar - Kei Kamara (C.J. Sapong 72), Jeferson (Graham Zusi 87), Omar Bravo (Peterson Joseph 82) - Teal Bunbury

TEAM NEWS

  • With the draw in San Jose, and Philadelphia Union's win in Seattle while Sporting had the following weekend off, SKC is now in second place in the Eastern Conference.
  • "Our first thought wasn't 'Oh, let's put our heads down. The game is over,'" Teal Bunbury said. "We picked ourselves up, and we went right at them immediately. We kicked it off, C.J. did his magic and I knew that I had to take off, make a good run in behind and finish it."
  • But the formula for Sporting to clinch a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs is a simple one: Win, and they're in. A draw or a loss, and it will likely come down to the season finale at D.C. United.
  • "It was tremendous," SKC manager Peter Vermes said. "The reaction was huge. To come back right away and score a goal, especially away from home, was big time. We've been on the end of that a couple times this year."
  • Sporting have scored seven goals in the final 15 minutes of contests, ahead of just Chicago (6), San Jose (5) and Portland (4). By contrast, they've allowed 12 goals in the final quarter-hour; the league leader is New England, with 14.
  • "We would like to have won," Vermes said, "but sometimes you have to battle and scrape and scrap the way we did in the first half. The bottom line is that the game is 90 minutes plus injury time. The guys did a really good job of staying in the game and realizing that it wasn't over until the end."
  • Davy Arnaud became the club's all-time appearance leader with his start in San Jose, making his 238th regular season appearance, surpassing the total of current assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin. He made his MLS debut July 31, 2002.
  • Midfielder Roger Espinoza missed a second consecutive match, still hampered by a quadriceps strain. "When it comes to muscle strains, I'm just not going to put a guy in harm's way. We've got to make sure he's 100 percent before he gets back out on the field," Vermes said.
  • Kei Kamara was called into Sierra Leone's national team for their African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa.
  • On Wednesday, Sporting KC and Chivas de Guadalajara played to a 2-2 draw in a friendly at Livestrong Sporting Park. Marco Fabian put Chivas into a first-half lead, but goals from Soony Saad (75) and Kevin Ellis (86) gave SKC a late lead, before Erick Torres hit for an 88th-minute equalizer.
  • Here's the Sporting team: Eric Kronberg; Seth Sinovic (Korede Aiyegbusi 46), Lawrence Olum, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers (Michael Harrington 46); Davy Arnaud (Kevin Ellis 61), Graham Zusi (Birahim Diop 46), Jeferson (Scott Lorenz 87); Omar Bravo (Milos Stojcev 53), C.J. Sapong (Soony Saad 46), Kei Kamara (Craig Rocastle 46)
  • Sporting Kansas City designated player Omar Bravo played 53 minutes against his former team. Bravo played a total of 10 seasons with CD Guadalajara and ranks second on the club's all-time goalscoring charts.
  • "I have adapted to the play of the league. I'm comfortable with it and I understand what I have to do for the team. It's not a matter of level of play. It's more physical and it's more direct," said Bravo. "Our team is capable of playing this way, we have a good game plan. ... I was elated when coach told me to play (my current) position. For many years at Chivas I played like that. I feel comfortable there."

NEW YORK RED BULLS

The New York Red Bulls won for a second time in three games, knocking off the LA Galaxy 2-0 on Tuesday evening at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls have 43 points from 32 games, in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Red Bulls took the lead in the 32nd minute. Jan Gunnar Solli rose above Galaxy defender Frankie Hejduk on Joel Lindpere's corner kick and snapped a header off the gloves of Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and Luke Rodgers promptly finished off the rebound.
  • Thierry Henry then sealed the match on the hour mark, finishing off a breakaway with a shot that gently caromed off the back post and into the goal after Ricketts couldn't close off the angle.
  • Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe made no changes to the team that got a late goal for a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC at BMO Field.
  • NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-4-2): Frank Rost - Jan Gunnar Solli, Tim Ream, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller - Dane Richards (Mehdi Ballouchy 93+), Teemu Tainio, Rafael Marquez (Dax McCarty 82), Joel Lindpere - Luke Rodgers, Thierry Henry.

TEAM NEWS

  • After going eight games without a victory from July 9-Sept. 10, the Red Bulls have won three of their last five games, all by shutout.
  • "Over 90 minutes, this has probably been the best, well-balanced game from us," said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. "I can't really remember our first seven games where we played really well before the Gold Cup. I think we only conceded two goals since seven games and picked up a number of wins, but from the Gold Cup and now, this was definitely the most balanced game."
  • The win kept the Red Bulls tied for ninth place overall and holding down the final wild card spot, with two games remaining to be played. They conclude the season with a trip to Philadelphia.
  • "This win (against LA), it has definitely set us up with great possibility to play head-to-head with Kansas City and Philadelphia. But if we lose these games, we can be out of the playoffs," said Backe. "With the way we performed today, it reminds me a little bit of the beginning of the season. Not giving away anything and the willingness to defend with hard work. If we are in the playoffs, I think we would definitely be a threat."
  • The Red Bulls had five defensive shutouts in their first seven games of the season. The blanking of the Galaxy was their fifth shutout since that stretch, a period of 23 games.
  • "Obviously you want a clean sheet no matter who you play. During the game you don't really think about it, it's not really more significant than getting a clean sheet with Dallas or getting any clean sheet this year," said defender Tim Ream. "Obviously they have great players and they could do some good things and they have a powerful offense. Even if we were playing Toronto, you got to shut out who you play and we would be happy, especially at this point in the season."
  • In five games since returning to the Red Bulls starting lineup, Luke Rodgers has scored three goals.
  • Thierry Henry has scored in back-to-back games, now tied for the league lead with 14 goals for the season, along with Dwayne Rosario of D.C. United and Chris Wondolowski of San Jose.
  • "I thought we had [balance] at the beginning of the season, somehow it went away," said Henry. "Hopefully it's not too late. It's coming back. It's a vital three points. It was vital to win the game in hand that we had, so that's done."
  • With a victory in Kansas City, and a Houston victory on Friday and a Chicago win vs. D.C. United on Saturday, the Red Bulls will be on the verge of playoff qualification with a home game vs. Philadelphia remaining.
  • "We all knew it was a must-win game. It's funny because when we must win, we win, so I think every game is a must-win game and now we have the last two of the season," said Henry. "There is no reason why we can't win them both and finish on top of the (East)."