The New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City haven’t quite been themselves lately, and they don’t have much time to rethink things.
In a quick turnaround after the weekend slate, the league’s top regular-season teams from a season ago will both try to win for the first time in four matches Tuesday night in Kansas City.
After Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Portland, the Red Bulls (3-5-5) have dropped three straight matches and are out to avoid their first four-game losing streak since May 8-29, 2010.
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"I’ve been in this league long enough, and I’ve been through a hell of a lot longer and worse spells than we’re in right now," coach Mike Petke said after the most recent defeat. "Part of it’s mental. We did enough to win this game. It just didn’t fall."
Kansas City (5-4-3) is also winless in three, though it followed up two losses with Friday’s 2-2 home draw against Toronto. After allowing six goals in its first nine matches, Sporting has conceded two in each of its last three. The last time the club gave up more than a goal in four straight games was May 26-June 20, 2007.
Defensively, Kansas City has already been without mainstay Matt Besler, who is with the U.S. national team along with midfielder Graham Zusi. It now must dig even deeper after learning defender Chance Myers will require season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.
"Obviously, it’s a blow to the team because he is an important member of our group," coach Peter Vermes told the club’s official website. "It will be hard to replace his qualities and experience, but we will do the best we can during his absence and look forward to seeing him back on the pitch."
Kansas City has also been without defenders Lawrence Olum, who is with the Kenyan national team for Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers through May 30, and Aurelien Collin due to a hamstring strain.
With all the defensive strife, it should come as no surprise that normally unflappable Sporting blew two leads against Toronto and settled for one point after Dom Dwyer’s two-goal match.
"We gave them a point and threw two in the trash," midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. "It’s very frustrating. It doesn’t matter the personnel we’re missing. We could be missing our whole – we are missing our whole back line, basically – but it’s unacceptable."
Dwyer, a 23-year-old forward enjoying a breakout season, has scored six times on a four-match goal streak and is tied with New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips for the league lead with 10.
The Red Bulls also couldn’t hold a lead against the Timbers after Wright-Phillips’ 36th-minute goal from the penalty spot went to waste.
New York is without Australia midfielder Tim Cahill and Costa Rica defender Roy Miller on international leave.
The Eastern Conference foes split two matches a season ago with the road team winning each. New York’s 3-2 win in Kansas City on Aug. 3 was the last league match in which Sporting allowed more than two goals. It has since allowed 23 goals in 39 games.
Red Bulls star Thierry Henry hasn’t scored in seven matches against Kansas City. The only other MLS club he hasn’t scored against is Vancouver, which he’s only faced twice.