By FRANCO PANIZO
HARRISON, N.J. – Beating the New York Red Bulls inside of Red Bull Arena had proved virtually impossible. The Red Bulls had set out to make a fortress out of their beautiful soccer-specific stadium this season, and they boasted one of only two remaining untainted home records.
That is, until Wednesday night.
Sporting Kansas City walked into the New York's fortress and shook the foundation of Red Bull Arena by defeating the hosts, 2-0, in what was a battle for first place in the tight Eastern Conference.
That Sporting KC won was big enough; they went four points clear of the Chicago Fire and five ahead of New York. But the manner in which they gave the Red Bulls their first black eye of the year at home was made even more impressive due to the dominant performance put forth by Peter Vermes' side, one that had the team brimming with confidence following the win.
"We came out here, we felt right, we really wanted to interrupt their whole record, not give them time," said Kei Kamara, who scored the second goal in the 19th minute of the match. "It worked out perfect."
That much was evident. Sporting KC enjoyed the lions' share of possession in the opening 45 minutes and the high pressure from Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and the rest of the Sporting KC left the Red Bulls players feeling uncomfortable and forced them into errors.
Those errors eventually turned into two early goals. C.J. Sapong blasted home a pass from Matt Besler after a Zusi free kick smashed off the crossbar in the 12th minute and Kamara headed home a Zusi corner shortly after, putting New York in a hole it was never able to get out of no matter how hard they tried.
"It was great that we broke their rhythm," said Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes. "We didn’t let them build out of the back, so we put them under a lot of pressure which then there weren’t a lot of balls, it put them under pressure to have to defend and then go 80 yards and try to build their game up if they did get out, but with a lot of work.
"I think that really disrupted them a lot. I also think it presented us with some very good chances and second chances."
Only five games separate Sporting KC from finishing atop the Eastern Conference and while they know there is work to be done to assure themselves of ending the regular season in first place, the team is hoping to use their latest three points as a confidence booster.
"It was pretty big," said Zusi of the result. "It's one where the race is so close and to get points, especially on the road, are big points. All year we've been able to seal some big points on the road, we've been a great road team this year, so we thought no different of ourselves going into this one."