HARRISON, N.J. – Before the kick off, New York-Sporting seemed like a goalfest waiting to happen. But in the end, the match was decided by a lone Luke Rodgers strike, as the Red Bulls won, 1-0, in front of 20,636 at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
The goal was Rodgers third of the season, and third in three games since taking over the starting role from youngster Juan Agudelo.
The result was the third straight shutout victory for the Red Bulls, who have scored eight goals over the stretch. With the win, they retake first place in the East from the Houston Dynamo.
For Sporting, the loss was their third in a row. Six games into a 10-game road stretch to begin the season, they have not won an MLS game since their season opener, and they remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The Red Bulls started the match strong with several half chances as Sporting sat back and let the home team attack. New York should have taken an early lead in the 13th minute, when Thierry Henry fed a pass from the left side of the penalty area to a charging Dwayne De Rosario. Receiving the ball, De Rosario was tugged slightly by Sporting midfielder Stephane Auvray, and referee Andrew Chapin wasted no time calling a penalty.
A stutter-step in Rafa Márquez’s approach to the ball did not fool Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who dove to his left to make the save and keep the game scoreless.
The Red Bulls continued attacking, and in the 22nd minute they finally broke through. Márquez atoned for his penalty-kick miss with a quickly taken free kick around midfield, surprising the Sporting defense. His pass found Henry, who flicked the ball into the path of De Rosario on the right flank. The Canadian international took a touch down the wing and struck a low cross into the middle, where Rodgers one-timed it past Nielsen.
At first glance, Rodgers looked offside on the play, but replays showed that he was level with the ball, and the assistant referee was right to keep his flag down.
Sporting rebounded after halftime with more time on the ball and some quality play down the wings. Their first true chance of the match came in the 48th minute, when a Graham Zusi shot was deflected over by centerback Tim Ream. Then in the 60th minute, Zusi one-timed a Michael Harrington cross, but again the shot went inches over the bar.
One final chance for Sporting came in the dying minutes, but NY goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul rushed out to smother the run into the area.
NY -- Luke Rodgers 3 (Dwayne De Rosario 2, Thierry Henry 3) 22
New York Red Bulls -- Bouna Coundoul, Jan Gunnar Solli, Tim Ream, Rafael Marquez, Roy Miller, Dane Richards, Dwayne De Rosario (Mehdi Ballouchy 80), Teemu Tainio (Carl Robinson 46), Joel Lindpere, Luke Rodgers (Juan Agudelo 46), Thierry Henry.
Substitutes Not Used: Stephen Keel, Carlos Mendes, Greg Sutton.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Michael Harrington, Julio Cesar, Aurelien Collin, Korede Aiyegbusi, Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, Stephane Auvray (Milos Stojcev 64), Davy Arnaud, C.J. Sapong (Ryan Smith 46), Teal Bunbury.
Substitutes Not Used: Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Roger Espinoza, Craig Rocastle, Eric Kronberg.
NY -- Luke Rodgers (caution; Reckless Foul) 32
NY -- Teemu Tainio (caution; Reckless Foul) 42
NY -- Mehdi Ballouchy (caution; Simulation) 93+
Referee: Andrew Chapin
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Daniel Belleau
4th Official: Edvin Jurisevic
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-64-degrees