Red Bulls-Sporting Kansas City Preview
First-place Sporting Kansas City and the second-place New York
Red Bulls both have their sights set on winning the Eastern
Sporting KC, though, could be feeling good about its chances of
creating some breathing room in the standings with Red Bulls
captain Thierry Henry ruled out for this weekend’s much-anticipated
heavyweight showdown, the first of three meetings between these
teams this season.
Sitting two points behind Sporting KC, New York (13-7-5) will be
without Henry – among the league leaders with 11 goals – on Sunday
night due to the birth of his son. While Henry’s absence could make
scoring on stingy Kansas City (14-7-4) all the more difficult,
coach Hans Backe is more concerned about the Red Bulls’ ability to
defend on the road.
“We have to defend better, if you look back for the probably
four or five last games on the road it hasn’t been good enough
defending-wise,” said Backe, whose club has been outscored 12-4
during an 0-4-2 stretch in opponents’ stadiums.
“When you play teams like (Sporting KC), it’s about good
defending … It will be a tough one, I mean they are two points in
front of us … but I think we definitely can raise our level and
New York is coming off back-to-back home victories, beating
Houston 2-0 on Aug. 10 and Portland 3-2 last Sunday. The Timbers
took a 2-0 lead in that game before the Red Bulls came storming
back behind goals from Kenny Cooper, Tim Cahill and Heath
“When you go down two, you usually lose the game,” Backe said.
“It’s normally too much to recover from.”
New York likely can’t afford to fall behind versus Kansas City,
which has allowed a league-low 22 goals. Coach Peter Vermes’ team
has given up six goals during a 5-2-2 stretch and just one during
its three-game winning streak.
Sporting KC continued playing shutdown defense last Saturday
with a 1-0 road win over Toronto FC. Jimmy Nielsen posted his 11th
clean sheet and Kei Kamara provided the offense, scoring on a free
kick in the 83rd minute.
“We’re just feeling it,” said Kamara, who leads the team with
nine goals. “We’re top of the conference and we know if we keep
playing our game thing are going to go our way. We want to finish
the season being top of the league, and that’s a goal.”
Sporting KC, which had been outscored 5-0 during a three-game
losing streak in this series before beating New York 2-0 on Oct.
15, isn’t buying into the hype surrounding Sunday’s matchup.
“I think right now we’re kind of high on confidence, and for a
reason,” midfielder Graham Zusi told Sporting KC’s official
website. “We’ve got a great team and we’ve been consistent
throughout the year. This New York game is no different than any
other, in terms of us preparing for it and then trying to go out
Red Bulls rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara is expected to miss the
rest of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Thursday
to repair his left hip. He hasn’t played since July 8.