KANSAS CITY, Kan. – That's what an immediate impact looks like.
When Lloyd Sam came on at the hour mark on Saturday, the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City were tied 1-1 in front of a second straight record-breaking crowd at Sporting Park. Less than 10 minutes later, after Sam notched a goal and an assist on the way to New York's 3-2 win and retaking of the Eastern Conference lead, the 21,304 in attendance were either silent or booing.
Sam assisted on Fabian Espindola's strike in the 63rd minute, then added a clutch insurance goal in the 69th that proved to be the winner for the Red Bulls (11-7-5), who extended their unbeaten streak to four and lead Sporting (10-7-6) by two points in the East standings.
Kei Kamara had a goal and an assist for the hosts, who have lost two straight after a six-match unbeaten run, and Dom Dwyer notched his first league goal in the second minute of stoppage time to pull Kansas City within one and set up a wild finish with nearly 10 minutes of added time.
With each team missing a key midfielder – Sporting's Graham Zusi with a quad strain and New York's Tim Cahill with a torn PCL – Kansas City controlled possession through the first half but couldn't convert that into a score.
Kansas City outshot the Red Bulls 8-1 in the first 23 minutes, but New York took a 1-0 lead against the run of play in the 27th.
Dax McCarty beat defender Matt Besler to a 50-50 ball 40 yards from goal and sent a long diagonal pass to Steele, who held off right back Chance Myers and blasted his left-footed shot inside the near post.
Sporting pressed back and nearly equalized in the 42nd, only to see Claudio Bieler miss badly, nodding his header over the bar from point-blank range. But three minutes later, Kamara connected on a rebound to pull the hosts equal just before half.
Myers sent in a cross to Saad, who snapped off a header that Luis Robles could only parry. The ball fell to Kamara, who buried it for his fifth league goal since rejoining Sporting in May from a loan to Premiership side Norwich City.
Sam set up Espindola's game-winner with a long pass down the right flank. Sporting defender Aurelien Collin moved up, looking to draw an offside call, and stopped and raised his hand when Espindola took the ball. But assistant referee George Gansner's flag stayed down, and Collin couldn't get back in time to stop Espindola from slotting the ball inside the far post. It was his seventh goal of the year, tying him with Thierry Henry for the team lead.
Then, in the 69th, Robles sent a long throw down the left side to Steele, whose cross found Sam streaking down the middle. His finish put the visitors up 3-1, but it wasn't over by a long shot.
After Dwyer's goal pulled Sporting within one, play had to be halted so New York's Kosuke Kimura could be stretchered off after a collision with Sporting defender Seth Sinovic. Then, in the 99th minute – just after referee Chris Penso dismissed Red Bulls manager Mike Petke from the sideline – Kansas City's last chance sailed high when Ike Opara's header off a corner kick went into the stands.
Sporting open CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday, away to Nicaraguan side Real Esteli, before returning to MLS action at home against New England on Aug 10. The Red Bulls visit Columbus that day.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Lloyd Sam||RBNY's English winger played supersub, running the counterattack with speed and precision|
|2||Dax McCarty||Did plenty of dirty work and began many Red Bulls moves with pinpoint passing in transition|
|3||Kei Kamara||Had a key role in both goals on a night when SKC's finishing left something to be desired|