Red Bulls and Sporting KC set for crucial Eastern Conference tilt at Red Bull Arena

RBNYSportingKC (Getty)

First place in the Eastern Conference is on the line tonight at Red Bull Arena as first-place Sporting Kansas City looks to become the first visiting MLS team to post a victory in the home of the New York Red Bulls.

Sporting KC enters the match with the best road record in the league, but they face a Red Bulls squad that is coming into the match as healthy and deep as they have been all season. The Red Bulls have rattled off five straight victories at home, with the most recent being a 3-1 win against Columbus that came on the strength of Thierry Henry's latest virtuoso performance.

For Sporting KC, containing Henry is a top priority, and centerbacks Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin are going to have to work together to ensure that the Frenchman doesn't weave more magic. The Red Bulls will need whoever starts at forward alongside Henry (be it Kenny Cooper, Sebastien LeToux or even Tim Cahill) to do enough to keep KC from keeping numbers around Henry.

The battle to watch will be in midfield, where Dax McCarty and Rafa Marquez will face off against Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza. battle in the middle the last time these teams met was an impressive one, with neither side yielding much in a 1-1 draw at Livestrong Sporting Park on Aug. 26th.

For Sporting KC, it will be imperative to get C.J. Sapong involved and try to get him matched up against Red Bulls defender Markus Holgersson. Sapong doesn't necessarily have the kind of speed that has proven to cause Holgersson trouble, but he showed last week against Houston that he is in good form and will cause problems for the big Swede.

The Red Bulls will need Heath Pearce to provide cover for both Holgersson, and for left back Wilman Conde, who is sure to have his hands full against Graham Zusi.

Zusi is enjoying a stellar run of form and will cause problems with his movement and deadly passing eye. Zusi's recent shift to the right wing will make him even tougher for the Red Bulls to deal with, and will mean Heath Pearce having to help out Wilman Conde.

If Kei Kamara is deployed on the left flank, then it will likely set up an intriguing match-up with Connor Lade. The rookie right back has stood up well against big forwards, such as Macoumba Kandji, and he is physical enough to frustrate Kamara, who is one of the keys to Sporting KC's attacking success.

Sporting KC has enjoyed success on the road because of their defensive discipline and their ability to make the most of the few chances they create. They will find chances against New York because of the Red Bulls penchant for slow starts. The key for KC having success tonight will be containing Henry and pressuring the flanks in order to limit the options Henry and Cahill will have on the attack.

As important as Henry is to the Red Bulls attack, they will need Cahill to be effective tonight. Not only in terms of putting in the work in midfield, and helping win that battle, but also by being a threat getting forward and putting pressure on the area between the Sporting KC back-line and midfield.

How do you see tonight's match going? Think the Red Bulls keep their home winning streak going, or do you see Sporting KC having the defensive discipline to leave New Jersey with a point or three?

Share your thoughts below.

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23 Responses to Red Bulls and Sporting KC set for crucial Eastern Conference tilt at Red Bull Arena

  1. pd says:

    Has the potential to be the best match of the season!

  2. Tim F. says:

    Wish I could go but mid-week game clashes with other commitments; first home game I will miss this season. Ugh.

  3. Tim F. says:

    I would like Lindpere to start over Solli. I also wonder when Barklage can earn a start but tonight might not be the best night to do so.

    The Red Bulls know they need to earn three points tonight. The key will be how the team starts off.

  4. ViC El Paso Texas says:

    galaxy or red bull are winning the MLS Cup this year. SKC, San Jose, Sounders and CHicago fire dont have the depth in their bench like galaxy and red bull.

  5. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    COYRB!

  6. Jake says:

    +1

    Sam and Le Toux should be the super-subs.

  7. Bob says:

    Sounders have the depth, but I’m not sure that their defense holds up in the playoffs. Chicago is a wild card and you can never count out the Dynamo.

  8. Rod says:

    SKC needs to create the usual havoc in the midfield and keep the score low with Nielsen in goal. They cannot win a shoot-out in NY.

  9. Brain Guy says:

    RBNY 2, SKC 1

  10. Charles says:

    Funny how Seattle’s D always gets ripped on, but they have the second best GA in the league ( maybe third ? ).

    IF you are going to rip on D, it should be NY for sure. They have to outscore to win.

    My opinion is it is wide open and it is going to be a blast. If you are one not following MLS right now, there are games like tonights every week and you are a moron.

  11. Charles says:

    I am going with KC, or a draw, since it is in NY.
    KC is the team to beat, because of the swarming defense. It already won them a LH USOC…and it will make it tough for anyone to beat them.

  12. 19561 says:

    Exciting game as these are basically full strength squads. Interested to see if Marquez shows up and if his long ball ability plays a factor in pushing SKC defensive discipline.

  13. THomas says:

    Is this on national TV at all?

  14. TomG says:

    Still don’t understand Conde at LB when Pearce has much, much, much more experience in that role. It doesn’t make any sense. Looking forward to this game. It should be a great match.

  15. Aguinaga says:

    Metro is peaking and healthy, KC is missing Teal. NY just tied this team in their home relatively recently and are much better at home. 3-1 NY. Goals by Cahill, Holgerrson, and Titi Henry.

  16. Starks says:

    Really looking forward to this game. I cant believe no network willnshow this on national tv. Good thing i have mls live. I hope my redbulls can get three points. Huge game! And tomorrow night giants v panthers. Great wed and thursday action for nyc fans.

  17. TomG says:

    Metro? You are showing your age, my friend! :)

  18. Johnny Ramone says:

    Let’s not forget Mets vs.Phils! Oh, right…

  19. King Crimson says:

    Don’t have the depth?! With all the summer transfers in we have a very strong 4 off the bench (Oduro, Gibbs, Gargan, and Thompson), who could start for most clubs in the league plus the talent behind them who could come off the bench for most other clubs (Vidiera, Franco, Bone, and Jumper). Yet I’d rather you down play all this and our recent form. I rather like bieng your underdog/wild card. We will win the conference at least and probably will take the title if we stay healthy. In the end that’s what will impair the energy drinks and the galaxy.

  20. Scott A says:

    Man, I’ve got friends’ little kids saying Metro haha

  21. Alex says:

    Full strength squads? You mean besides the fact that Sporting are missing Teal Bunbury, Bobby Convey, and Jacob Peterson hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in 2 months?

  22. Chupacabra says:

    SKC 2, RBNY 0

    And it’s only the 20th minute.

    FAIL!

  23. Chupacabra says:

    SKC is beating NYRB 2-0 and it’s only the 20th minute.

    Same old Metro. After all, it wouldn’t be the Metros without at least one embarassing asswhuppin’ at home during the season.