By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The script was all-too familiar for Sporting Kansas City Tuesday. An early go-ahead goal gave fans a sense of optimism and excitement, only for the visitors to storm back for a crushing equalizer.
The New York Red Bulls were the antagonists — or benefactors, if you will — this time around as the two sides played out to a 1-1 draw in front of 19,221 at Sporting Park. Forward Toni Dovale scored the lone goal for Sporting KC — the first of his Major League Soccer career — while forward Bradley Wright-Phillips put away his league-leading 11th goal of the season to cap off the night’s scoring.
“Look, we played a good game. They scored a goal,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said in the post-game press conference. “How about our goal? I guess that would be the same question to them, ‘How did we score, and how did we have three chances that were unbelievable in five minutes?’ We played a good game and they scored a goal.”
Wright-Phillips’ 50th-minute equalizer came after the Red Bulls had enjoyed a late first-half surge following a lackluster first 20 minutes to the match. Wright-Phillips received a spot-on through ball from Thierry Henry on an even better run into the box before calmly slotting his shot past Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg for the crowd silencer.
“That’s why you have a Thierry Henry on your team,” Red Bulls manager Mike Petke said after the match. “That’s why he makes the money he does and that’s why he’s been at the level he’s at, for that one moment that he can make that pass. Credit to Bradley (Wright-Phillips), he finished. A couple minutes later he almost had the exact same thing that could have put us ahead, but we’ll take the draw.”
Sporting KC, which looked poise to go up two or three goals early in the match, was unable to regroup and get by the New York defense for a game-winner. The home side’s only score came nine minutes into the match following a brilliant shot from Dovale from 23 yards out.
“It was so beautiful,” Dovale said when asked about scoring his first goal in front of the main Sporting KC supporters section. “I think I won’t forget that good memory in my life. We have very special fans. I haven’t ever seen supporters like this in my career. I have played in many big games in Spain and I have never seen this. This is very special, but we cannot stop. We have to keep going and think about the next game.”
The result is Sporting KC’s second draw in four days. Their record now sits at 5-4-4 prior to a weekend meeting with D.C. United in the nation’s Capitol. New York earn a tough road point and see their record go to 3-5-6. The Red Bulls will have the weekend off before hitting the road to take on the New England Revolution on June 8.