Sam stunner lifts Red Bulls to draw at Sporting Kansas City

New York Red Bulls cast aside the tumult of the winter to open their campaign with a creditable 1-1 draw against 10-man Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night.

Ike Opara opened the scoring by nodding home Benny Feilhaber’s inviting cross five minutes into the second half. Lloyd Sam produced a sumptuous response with his curling effort four minutes later. Matt Besler then procured his second yellow card to leave Sporting down a man for the final 20 minutes, but the home side managed to hold firm in the late stages to secure a deserved point.

The outcome reflected the balance on the afternoon. Both teams struggled to find their footing in the first half, though the home side looked dangerous intermittently and the Red Bulls threatened occasionally on the break.

All of the toil eventually paid dividends for the home side with a well-worked goal to open the scoring early in the second half. Feilhaber drifted out to the right and served an enticing ball across the face of the square Red Bulls defense. Opara anticipated the delivery, cut across his marker and then thumped his header past Luis Robles.

The lead lasted only four minutes as Sam produced a genuine moment of quality to restore parity. Sam collected a vertical ball through the lines from Felipe and embarked on a slicing run through the Sporting defensive half. The tricky winger dashed to his left and then turned back onto his right foot to create a yard of space. He used that space to perfection with a curling effort inside the far post to level the proceedings.

The dynamic of the match changed in the final 20 minutes after Besler procured a second booking for a challenge at midfield. There did not appear to be much in the tackle on Bradley Wright-Phillips, but referee Baldomero Toledo produced a second yellow card nevertheless to leave Sporting to muddle through the final period with 10 men.