The biggest Major League Soccer match of the week will not be nationally televised, nor will it take place this weekend. New York Red Bulls host Sporting KC on Wednesday evening in a game that could be a first step toward determining which team finishes the 2012 season atop the Eastern Conference standings. New York will host KC again on October 20, so all would do well to avoid making too much of whatever takes place at Red Bull Arena this evening.
The MLS Cup isn't won in September, after all.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Sporting KC: Something's gotta give
New York haven't yet lost a single match at Red Bull Arena in 2012, going 10-0-3 in home contests during the current campaign. Kansas City, meanwhile, have the best away record, 7-4-2, in the league heading into Wednesday evening. KC have earned road victories against DC United, Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew this season. New York supporters expecting their team to easily pick up three points on Wednesday should also remember that the Red Bulls have gone down early in home contests against opponents such as DC, Portland Timbers and Columbus.
Despite the fact that they sit atop the conference standings, it would be false to suggest that KC have been an overly consistent side this season. They are also without Teal Bunbury, who was lost for the remainder of the campaign at the end of August due to an ACL tear. With that said, Kansas City remain an extremely talented side, one that has given up the fewest goals (25) of any team in the league. One mistake, even one that happens in the first ten minutes of play, could be all the visitors need to ultimately earn all of the points on Wednesday night.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Sporting KC: RBNY lineup
New York head coach Hans Backe told reporters earlier this week that all 11 players who started in the team's match against Columbus Crew on Saturday could again be selected for his starting lineup on Wednesday evening. He also hinted that the left back position could be a bit of a worry, as Wilman Conde had, according to the coach, "picked up a bruise." Conde trained with the team yesterday and he isn't listed in the official injury report, but I still wouldn't be shocked if the CB/LB ended up being a late scratch. Roy Miller is also still nursing a groin injury that will keep him sidelined for at least one more match.
Backe has several options if Conde is unable to go. Brandon Barklage could make his return to MLS action and feature on either wing. Heath Pearce can also play out at the left, but such a move would leave New York with a gap in central defense; a gap that could be filled by Rafa Marquez. Marquez was a boss in the midfield during his return from injury against Columbus, but things didn't go so smoothly the last time he was asked to play CB. He was burned by Seattle attackers on multiple occasions, and he played just 21 minutes before picking up a calf injury.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Sporting KC: Prediction
These two teams were responsible for a rather missable affair when they met at KC back in August. I feel that we could be in for a similar match on Wednesday. Tensions will be high, and both teams would, all things considered, still be in solid shape following a scoreless draw.
There's something special about this New York team when they are playing at Red Bull Arena, though.
The slow starts are frustrating, as is the fact that every person I spoken with on the subject believes that under 15,000 people will make the trek out to Harrison, NJ for the match. Such issues haven't prevented the Red Bulls from finding late goals to earn points at home before, and I don't see them costing the Red Bulls tonight. I think Kenny Cooper ends his drought by nodding home a goal in the final 15 minutes, earning New York a 1-0 win.
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