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Sporting KC grabs playoff berth and share of first place in East after stopping RBNY

SportingCKCelebrates (Getty)


KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Sporting Kansas City is one of the toughest teams in the league to beat at home, and doing so with ten men and without your top player makes the task all but impossible.

The New York Red Bulls learned that fact after seeing Thierry Henry sent off for violent conduct in the 28th minute. Sporting KC capitalized on the man advantage, with Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong providing the goals in a 2-0 victory at Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday.

Kansas City enjoyed a bright start to the first half, holding on to the bulk of possession but failing to capitalize on a number of gilt-edged opportunities.  Aurelien Collin should have scored on a header in the first minute after Omar Bravo chipped a ball into the box to a wide open Collin who put his shot just left of the post.

The victory moved Sporting KC back into first place in the Eastern Conference with one game remaining, while the loss left the Red Bulls hanging onto to the final MLS playoff spot.

The turning point in the match came in the 28th minute when Henry was issued a straight red card from match referee Kevin Stott.  Henry lost possession in midfield to Roger Espinoza, and upon chasing after the play looked to fall over Espinoza, kneeing the Honduran in the back in the process.

At first glance, the contact appeared to be accidental, but Stott is confident that Henry “intentionally kicked an opposing player that was on the ground and the ball was not in playing distance.” 

“I haven’t seen the replay, but the referee was very quick to give the red card,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe.

After the sending off, KC bossed possession and creating more scoring chances. 

“When (Thierry Henry) got thrown out it changed the game from the perspective that Julio (Cesar) could push up the field more," Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said. "And at the same time push Roger (Espinoza) and (Graham) Zusi up the field.”

As the second half began, Sporting looked to exploit their one-man advantage, and they didn’t have to wait long.  In the 57th minute, Teal Bunbury opened up the scoring after a Zusi corner found Davy Arnaud on the left of the box who headed the ball back across the box to Cesar who headed it to Bunbury who volleyed a right-footed shot past an outstretched Frank Rost. 

C.J. Sapong’s first touch put Kansas City up 2-0 in the 74th minute when Matt Besler headed a corner down into the box to Sapong who right-footed past his defender and into the goal. Sporting KC captain Davy Arnaud said of Sapong, “I don’t know if people realize just how good CJ has been for us this year.  He’s been outstanding every single game, and in my mind I don’t think there’s any question who the rookie of the year should be.”

With the win, Sporting clinch a playoff spot and move into a first-place tie on points with Philadelphia.

“I couldn’t be more happy or excited," said Sporting KC midfifelder Davy Arnaud. " First of all that we clinched the playoffs but second of all that we did it at home in front of our fans and in this amazing atmosphere. 

"We feel we have the players here to have a very good team.  The last couple of seasons not being involved in the playoffs have been tough.  To be back where we want to be feels good.”

The loss still leaves Red Bulls with everything to play for in their final match, on Thursday against Philadelphia. A loss to the Union could allow the Red Bulls to be caught by either Portland or D.C. United, while a victory would clinch a playoff spot for New York.

“Conditions are clear for the last game.  It’s a must win.” 

New York Red (9-8-16, 43pts) play Philadelphia Union Thursday October 20. Sporting KC (12-9-12, 48pts) travel to D.C. United Saturday October 22 looking to capture the top spot in the final regular season match.


  1. I feel the same and will not be renewing my season tickets, either.

    I also like that they’re giving away jerseys for free to people who buy a single ticket to the last match while season ticket holders are being offered jerseys for $20. How does this make any sense?

  2. Red Bulls problem continues to be the vaccum in the middle of the offensive half. They play down the wings and over the top, but have no consistent possesion or attack flowing on the ground from the middle of the field, all of which makes their attack utterly predicatable and incapable of sustained pressue. Yes, they’ll catch someone napping through the middle sometimes, but that’s not a game plan or a way to get consistent results. Henry, as good as he is most of the time, is wasted, and its mind-boggling that Backe can’t find more time for Agudelo on a side struggling to score. If Rodgers weren’t the bulldozer that he is, this team would look like its sleepwalking through games. This is all good news for MLS by the way. That a team with early-30s big name ex-Barca players, a DP goalie, two regular US Nationals, and a bunch of other lesser internationals can’t play with anything approaching consistency in MLS is a sign how much better the league has become. Probably. It could also be a sign how bad chemsitry and poor management on and off the field can destroy what could have been a legendary side. Bottom line is that they control their destiny and have one game to show who they really are before the crap-shoot that is the playoffs. All may be forgiven with a deep run, but its hard to see how it will be forgotten regardless.

  3. Want to give a shout our to OnGoal, the KC ownership group. They have done everything the right way in building this team. Also the fact that they gave Vermes time to come back from the 10 game road trip. The team that started on Saturday had 8 of the 11 players at 25 years old or younger. This team is young and only going to be better next year, not that this year is over yet!

  4. But in head-to-head the Fire and RB are tied, it goes to GD which NY will take unless that drastically swings in Chicago’s favor [and Portland must not win one game too].

  5. LA is only team that is close….every other team including soundershave under $4mn team salary, almost 1/4 of NYRB. And there is no chance their overall budgets come close to red bull….it’s nice to have a global corporate giant with wallet to build a stadium and fire coaches and players at will….just doesn’t translate into anything successful on the field in this case!

  6. Found it interesting that only Rafa commiserates with Henry after the red. WTF this team is such a disappointment. Shows they really overachieved last year until they got blown off the field at home by SJ in the first round. It’s unthinkable that NYRB can play well again this season. Hard to root for this team.

  7. I think the lack of class and leadership on the Red Bulls management/coaching end has filtered through to the players…Henry should be above such silliness but this is a team that is lost on the field and in the locker room. NYRB’s league leading $14mn budget can’t make up for clueless management. I have cancelled my season tickets for next year, if there are changes at the top may reconsider but at this point being a Red Bull fan is not easy, especially since the clowns in charge gutted our bench and traded most of our talent. Hats of to Philly, Seattle, Portland and others who have a fraction of our budget and resources but have done things right, from front office to the field…

  8. Suspension? For that? Na. Bush league yes, but he got what he deserved, and that’s booted from almost 2 full and important games

  9. “The loss still leaves Red Bulls with everything to play for in their final match, on Thursday against Philadelphia. A loss to the Union could allow the Red Bulls to be caught by either Portland or D.C. United, while a victory would clinch a playoff spot for New York.”


  10. Bush league move by Henry and I am a huge fan of his (arsenal fan here). He clearly knew what he was doing and got caught, will get to serve a suspension im sure.


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