Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For a team that has struggled away from home in recent weeks, the New York Red Bulls picked a perfect time to grab a road win.
Despite Sporting Kansas City’s stranglehold on possession and shots, the Red Bulls were able to find their way through the hosts’ tough defense and hold on for a 3-2 win at Sporting Park. Starting midfielder Jonny Steele and substitute Lloyd Sam led the way for the Red Bulls on Saturday evening, each recording a goal and an assist.
New York, who had been winless on the road since a 1-0 victory at Columbus in early May, created the best chances of the evening on the counter attack. The hosts held 65 percent of possession and out-shot the visitors 27-5, but the Red Bulls made most of their chances for a narrow road win that gave them the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I’m extremely proud of our team,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said afterwards. “We knew it was going to be tough coming into this game. We knew how well (Sporting KC) play at home, so we were looking to do a little more counterattacking today…and on our goals, it worked to a T.”
After seeing an early shot on goal get saved by Jimmy Nielsen, Steele collected a picture-perfect pass from Dax McCarty and finished off the counter with a well-struck goal in the 27th minute. McCarty, the hero of last week’s 4-3 thriller over Real Salt Lake, did well on the play to keep the ball and send his wide midfielder through on goal.
Sporting KC continued their high pressure and tight control of possession throughout the first half, and it paid off with an equalizer just before the break. A cross to Soony Saad led to a header was pawed away by New York goalkeeper Luis Robles, but Kei Kamara was there for a one-touch rebound goal.
Although SKC started the second half like they had finished the second, they were not able to take advantage of their opportunities to take the lead.
“I’m very disappointed on the fact that. in the second half. I think that we had them on their heels,” SKC head coach Peter Vermes said. “I think they were tired, and I didn’t think they had a second wind in them at all. It was our chance to go in and put it on them, and we didn’t take advantage of that.”
But it was New York who was able to break away thanks to the inclusion of Sam near the hour mark. Just minutes into his appearance, the substitute midfielder sent Fabian Espindola through on goal, and the forward capitalized with a fine strike to give the visitors the lead.
“I was told to come on and be positive straight away…f I could beat the first man, it would open up a lot for us.” Sam said after the match. “When you get positive words like that to go on and just attack, it helps out a lot.”
Six minutes later, New York doubled their lead with another counter attack involving Sam.
After saving a shot from Soony Saad, Robles quickly threw a long pass towards Steele down the left wing. Steele then fired a low cross to Sam, who found space and sliced a shot past Nielsen for the 3-1 lead. The super substitute later left the match with what he called a minor tweak to his quad.
The Red Bulls came close to a fourth goal in the 80th minute, once again off the counter. Substitute Peguy Luyindula had two chances to finish off the match, but his follow-up attempt after a Nielsen save was struck weakly and cleared away.
In front of the largest crowd for a MLS match in club history, Sporting KC pushed to get back into the match and found a lifeline in stoppage time. Shortly after Luyindula’s missed opportunity, Dom Dwyer had a header hit the post. Ten minutes later, his second headed shot beat Robles for his first league goal.
After Dwyer’s goal made it 3-2, the intense match was destined for a dramatic finish. But following an injury to New York substitute Kosuke Kimura, an ejection for Petke and a pair of missed chances for SKC, the match stayed 3-2 in favor of the visitors.
New York (11-7-5) will be on the road again next Saturday for a match against Columbus. Sporting KC (10-7-6) travel to face Nicuragua’s Real Esteli in CONCACAF Champions League action on Wednesday before next Saturday’s home match against New England.
Here are the match highlights: