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Late Wright-Phillips winner lifts Red Bulls past Sporting KC


Photo by Denny Medley/USA Today Sports


HARRISON, N.J. — Down a goal at home in yet another playoff match, Thursday night’s knockout round matchup had all the makings of yet another New York Red Bulls failure.

However, with the season on the line, it was the league’s Golden Boot winner who propelled his side to victory with a pair of second half goals to earn the Red Bulls a 2-1 victory.

Bradley Wright-Phillips’ winner came in the 90th minute off a cross from substitute Ambroise Oyongo, who worked into space on the right side before looping a ball into the box. With the ball hanging in midair for what felt like an eternity, Sporting KC failed to close down on the Red Bulls forward, who headed into the left side of the net so secure his sides advancement.

“Initially, the ball was quite high, wasn’t it?” said Wright-Phillips. “I thought I couldn’t get much of it and just tried to hit it on target.

“I was quite surprised because they marked me well the whole game. I was very quiet. They marked be but on that one, it might have been the height of the ball, they might have thought the keeper would come, but he didn’t and thankfully I got a head on it.”

With the victory, the Red Bulls will now take on rivals D.C. United Sunday at Red Bull Arena.

Despite looking to be the more comfortable side throughout the first half, Sporting KC conceded the half’s two best chances, which the Red Bulls proceeded to squander to spare the visitors an early deficit.

The game’s first chance came via Tim Cahill, who found himself back in the starting lineup for the second straight game. Following a free kick, the Australian ended up with the ball within close range, but Cahill fired the ensuing shot high with a whole net to shoot at.

Cahill’s miss was equalized by one from Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips, who failed to capitalize on a chance of his own by heading over the bar from within the six yard box.

When all was said and done in the opening stanza, the Red Bulls failed to record a shot on target, while Sporting KC’s only effort was snagged by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 35th minute

The Red Bulls yips in front of goal continued into the second half, when Dax McCarty missed a wide open header with Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg off his line.

“There was a time in the second half where I was questioning if this team is scared of the playoffs,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. “Over the last couple of years, I don’t believe in any curses or jinxes, I just thought maybe we’re scared of the playoffs.”

Sporting KC finally made the Red Bulls pay in the 53rd minute through Dwyer, who fired home on a counter attack.

After Eric Alexander was stripped at midfield, Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber led the charge for the visitors before sliding a ball into Dywer that wrong-footed Red Bulls centerback Jameson Olave. With plenty of room to shoot, Dwyer took full advantage by firing past Robles to give his team the 1-0 lead.

With Sporting KC bunkering down, the Red Bulls attempted to turn up the pressure, but struggled to create anything of significance against a stout SKC defense, aside from an attempted volley from Thierry Henry that soared over the bar.

“I was telling the other players that this can’t be the end already,” said Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam. “That comes into your head.”

“I thought it worked in our favor,” added Wright-Phillips. ” They sat back because they had a lead and it gave us a little bit of possession and we took our time…. They sat back like they just wanted to see the game out and it worked in our favor.”

However, with time ticking away, the Red Bulls finally converted a chance by way of Wright-Phillips, who tapped home an Henry cross to level the scoreline.

Substitute Peguy Luyindula kickstarted the Red Bull attack by finding a streaking Henry down the left side. The Frenchman sent a low cross in towards Wright-Phillips, whose shot caromed off Sporting KC defender Matt Besler and into the back of the net to tie the game.

“For us, it settled a lot of nerves with us thinking that every chance meant so much,” said  Sam. “Once we got back to 1-1, I think it effected them too because they had defended so well. To give us one, it was tough because they had to change their gameplan again. It meant a lot, the timing of that score.”

The hosts continued pressing until Wright-Phillips’ late winner, as Red Bull Arena went into a frenzy as the Red Bulls eliminated the defending champions to secure a place in the conference semifinals.

“Bradley, what can you say?” Petke said. “Two goals again tonight. I love him.”

“The guys showed resiliency and guts, which is something I’m more proud of than any goals or any tactics,” added Petke. “Kansas City is a great team… The guts that we showed, I’m very proud of. Now, we have two-and-a-half days left to get ready for D.C. but I’m proud of my guys.”

Eastern Conference winners D.C. United now await their fierce rivals, as the two sides collide Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena.

Here are the match highlights:


  1. KC played the right tactics when they scored and were winning 1-0. Then New York Scored with attacking ‘pressure into the penalty area’ by playing much more ‘compact’. New York got wide only as needed (or because New York players were not moving around to get open). New York continued to do so when until they scored again to make it 2-1. KC continued to play the same tactics of bunker and counter when they were losing. So, no, Vermes gets a D (below average) grade.

  2. Overlooked is that KC actually chose the right tactics and for 75+ minutes, looked like they were going to win. Your good old “MLS 1.0” tactics – pack the back and wait for a turnover and score on the counter. Which RBNY happily obliged with that hospital ball from Henry to Alexander. KC also did put in some good pressing work when RBNY was trying to build play after KC was ahead.

    Kudos to RBNY for not getting frustrated, widening the field, and taking a few chances. KC has 28% possession on the evening. That is like a second division team playing Barca. Far cry from the team that dictated play last year.

    • Why does everybody keep saying that Henry’s ball to Alexander was bad? It was right at Alexander’s feet! Alexander was in a tight spot, but not that tight. His touch was crap. Maybe the fault lies in Henry thinking that Alexander could handle a pass in such close quarters?
      And honestly, is Henry really hurting? Not even counting the ball to Alexander, he had so many lazy to-nowhere balls. Did you see the way he played in the All-Star game? Why can’t he do that if this is his last hurrah?

  3. Hideous defense aside, that was an incredible header by BRP. It’s impossible to get any pace on a ball coming down from that high arc, and he was able to place it perfectly. It’s a shame that skill is being overlooked because of the massive breakdown.

    • Excellent point. And in defense of Kronberg, the way that ball floated? I wouldn’t have believed my eyes either. An error, but not a total gaffe. And you’re right, BWP put it in the only spot it would have gone in at that pace. Keeper looked bad on both goals, but they were both weird knuckleballs.

      • the first goal hit Besler’s foot and changed it’s path. the original shot was headed towards the middle (most likely to be stopped) and the quick deflection sent it wide but not wide of the post.

    • Yeah, try placing a ball that is basically coming straight down on a slight deflection right into the corner. Nice finishing from BWP.

  4. Cahill stomped Feilhabers injured ankle first half, it was targeted, some games/players it would have been red (studs up, endangering) . I dont mind aggressiveness and rough play, but that was really ugly.

    Better team won, Collin is too worried about his fashion store on the plaza to mark BWP

  5. The defending/goalkeeping was so atrocious on that winning goal, it almost makes me think the game was fixed. They all just cleared out of W-P’s way to hit a slow header into the side of the net.

    • Yeah, Nate. Good call. One other question: Does the institution let you out for Halloween, or do they just bring candy right into the ward?

      • I said *almost*. It was just bizarrely horrible. Besides, as a Fire fan it makes me wonder why we aren’t in the playoffs. Our defense is capable of similar demonstrations of skill.

      • seriously, a soccer game being fixed? that’s crazy talk.

        (of course it wasn’t fixed; skc’s defending has been comical all year.)

      • Crazy talk — good point. Although where they fix matches, isn’t there usually money on the line? And isn’t it usually the referee who does the heavy lifting?

    • I’m with you Nate. BWP isn’t exactly the biggest guy on the field, yet he had plenty of time to camp out seemingly unmolested and the GK also had plenty of time to come out and pluck the ball out of the air, yet never moved from his spot. Maybe it wasn’t fixed, but the defense was so poor as to be criminal. If KC can’t defend that kind of cross, especially when the game is on the line, they deserved to lose. I thought it was really close to unbelievable.

      • GK half-stepped out. He should have immediately went for the punch or stayed on his line. he got lost in between and thus allowed the goal.

    • Kronberg took two or three steps then retreated. Why? That ball hung in the air for a full 2-3 seconds. Plenty of time for him to make a play. It was his to take. I was wondering which keeper Vermes would go with last night. Kronberg is the longest serving player at the club. Maybe not anymore…

    • It looked to me like that cross was so badly miss-hit that it fooled Collin, Besler, & Kronberg. All of their first steps appeared to go to where they expected that ball should end up opposed to the front post, and then they were all caught out of position.

      • Yeah, looks like there were multiple screw-ups:
        1. Kronberg was indecisive about whether to go up and grab the ball (should have gone in hard for it), effectively leaving himself in no-mans land.
        2. Collin was indecisive about marking BwP, which crossed up Besler – who didn’t know who was marking who. Looks like a case of “you’ve got him? no you’ve got him?” which ends up with nobody marking anybody.

        But yeah, big time screwup.

  6. How no one could challenge for that balloon of a cross is beyond me… Just putting a body on BWP makes that goal impossible. But very difficult finish and well done to NYRB. Hoping they can go all the way.

  7. I have a question for red bull fans, those fans in attendance tonight are they casual fans or serious fans, since their attendance was pretty good, I’m guessing 19,000.
    And if they are red bull fans, why don’t they pack red bull arena more often with that kind of environment. It would be tough to play there but it always seems calm in there during the season.
    Another question, will all red bull fans convert to cosmos if cosmos would buy the team or will red bull fans convert into a rebrand red bull team, like for example empire metros.
    I might sound crazy but if MLS and garber got 22 owners for LA2, why wouldn’t they do that for red bull if they would sell the team.
    Not only red bull, but Chicago, rapids are on the clock for some MLS kind of rejuvenation.

    • RBNY is a fake club with real fans. Especially ESC

      It’s easy to cheer for a good club.
      These self-hating abuse victims have been hardcore since 96.

      Sell the club to someone who will give them what they deserve

    • NASL dude,

      Why do you want the Cosmos in MLS so bad ? They don’t want to be in MLS.

      The fans ARE any pro team. Always. Without them, there is no pro team. Always.

      • Cosmos to MLS?!?! Lol.. What’s wrong with you?? You really don’t get it huh?
        What makes you think that they are going to MLS?? NEVER!!!
        Maybe is time for some MLS teams to come to NASL!!!
        Like Timbers, Sounders, San Jose, and any other team who wants to join!!!
        No Fees! No stadium needed!! ( but if you have one? That will be awesome)

    • Just like any playoff game in any sport, the fans get louder. Its hard for people to go all out every game, no matter what the sport or the league. Also the South Ward is about 1500 fans and they make all the noise. The rest of the crowd does very little.

  8. Congrats, NY. Really rooting for Henry to get to the MLS Cup final, then lose to the Galaxy. But if the Galaxy get knocked out early, I’m pulling for NY to take the cup.

    • I would love an MLS cup with galaxy vs red bull, and Donovan taking it home but like I said before, if Dallas gets over Seattle, then Dallas will go over galaxy or rsl to reach MLS cup.
      Same thing with revolution, if revolution get over crew, then they are pretty much in the final given that dc and red bull won’t be much.
      If there’s a team that can beat galaxy, Seattle and rsl, then it’s Dallas.
      Last year Dallas could have gone to MLS cup and revolution has it open once they get crew out if the way.

  9. I smell a fc dallas vs. revolution 🙂 mls cup if not red bull vs. galaxy.
    it all depends if fc dallas n revolution can get over the first leg, tough games for them but if fc dallas n revolution advance they will be good to advance over anybody.

  10. Weird to see the SKC players looking so gutted after they basically parked the bus and hoped for PKs. Feilhaber is as prickish as his mustache would suggest, but Zusi is pretty damn good. That play where RBNY was pressing, and he juked through four of them? Remarkable. And Luyindula, for as half-assed as he seems to be when chasing down balls and tracking back? Those through balls! I love Alexander’s energy, but the guy does have two feet of concrete in comparison. My prediction: RBNY go to MLS Cup. I will be surprised — and elated — if they win.

  11. Good for NY. It seemed a little wrong that BWP was talking about “character” after the game. Dude robbed a waitress for pocket change while he was making thousands of pounds per week.

      • exactly. Maxi is trying to throw him under a bus. BWP perhaps was an accomplice for being near the people caught stealing but in every account BWP didnt steal anything. He and his friends seemed to be leaving a club and some of the friends went through a hangbag, etc.

        nice try, Maxi, maybe next time…

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