By DAVE MARTINEZ
HARRISON, NJ- It may not have been the victory the Red Bulls were hoping for, but by the end of the night, it didn’t quite matter.
For the first time in three meetings, the New York Red Bulls got the better of Sporting KC for most of their 90 minute encounter. A brilliant Jimmy Nielsen held a relentless New York offense at bay earning KC a scoreless draw on the road in front of the largest announced crowd in Red Bull Arena’s history (25,219).
Though the result was hardly cause for celebration, the Red Bulls were awarded for their play. Saturday’s draw along with the Columbus Crew’s 3-2 loss at DC United clinches New York’s spot in the playoffs for the third time in three years under Hans Backe.
“It’s definitely one of the better games so far we have played,” Coach Backe observed. “Over 90 minutes, very intense, a lot of energy, many, many chances to score and of course we should have won the game 3-0, 4-0. That should have been the normal result.”
New York came out the gates slowly to open the match perhaps to remedy their pentiont of allowing a goal in the opening 20 minutes. A series of safe passes and possession allowed the new look midfield of McCarty on the left wing, Lloyd Sam on the right and Tim Cahill with Teemu Tainio in the middle to gel.
By the 25th minute, the Red Bulls began knocking on the door of the Kansas City goal, and hardly looked back. Kenny Cooper missed a sharp angle shot off of a McCarty rebound that sailed above the net. Cooper would again threaten prior to the half but Nielsen, who enjoyed a solid outing, was more than up to the task.
The second half was dominated by the Red Bulls offense. In perhaps their best sequence, Thierry Henry single handedly created space in the box and took a pulverizing shot on net that Nielsen batted away with authority. New York continued to buzz around Sporting KC’s net, but could not get one past their veteran keeper.
“I thought we did better,” team captain Thierry Henry said. “I’m never happy if we don’t win, but sometimes you have some draws, especially the way we have played against the top teams since the beginning of the season … we scored but we never controlled the game. The way we played against them the other day and at their place, we were never in control of the game. I thought tonight we were in control of the game.
“We were creating a lot of chances,” he continued. “I thought for once we showed a good attitude.”
Luis Robles was hardly challenged on the night but made perhaps the most consequential save of the evening. Graham Zusi spotted Kei Kamara in the box and the Sporting striker connected on a header that forced Robles to stretch for the save, preserving a vital result for the home side.
“We closed them down until the 85th minute when they had their first chance,” Backe remarked. “One of the few games you can say that you can be pleased with when it ends 0-0, but I must say, I’m very pleased with our performance tonight.”
New York currently sits fourth in the Eastern Conference and can conceivably place as high as third in the tables. They visit the Philadelphia Union in PPL this Saturday for a matinee encounter.
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? See the Red Bulls being a threat in the playoffs? Think Sporting KC is still the team to beat in the East?
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