MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 2-1 Sporting Kansas City

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One game, 100 words (or less): Sporting’s ongoing problems at the back nearly cost them early, giving up a penalty kick along with good chances for Lloyd Sam and Thierry Henry. By halftime, however, the visitors were starting to build some momentum, albeit while trailing 1-0.

Early in the second half, a spectacular strike from Thierry Henry doubled New York’s lead, but with Dom Dwyer’s 18th goal of the season two minutes later, Sporting stayed in the match. Over the game’s final 36 minutes, however, Kansas City was unable replicate the chance Dwyer converted, the 2-1 result at Red Bull Arena handing the defending champions their fourth straight loss.

Goals

New York: Bradley Wright-Phillips 11′, Thierry Henry 52′
Sporting Kansas City: Dom Dwyer 54′

Three moments that mattered:

10′ – Should Besler have been sent off? – On a Luis Robles kick out of New York’s end, Bradley Wright-Phillips is allowed to run onto a ball bouncing between Sporting’s center backs, to the left of Andy Gruenebaum’s goal. Going down for a challenge just outside the 18-yard box, Matt Besler’s slide ends up making contact with Wright-Phillips as the players enter the penalty area. Perhaps more controversial, Wright-Phillips’s first touch has gone toward goal, where, if he can get past Besler, he’ll have a chance on Greuenebaum.

Ultimately, Besler’s foul draws a penalty but no card, let alone a red. As Wright-Phillips buries his 21st of the season, fans are still debating whether Besler denied an obvious goal scoring chance.

52′ – Forgot about Henry – Lloyd Sam did a good job is attracting attention, given the ball on the right during a New York counter, but if there’s one person Sporting should never lose track of, it’s Thierry Henry. As Sam brought the ball toward the middle of the part, Sporting had done just that, allowing Henry to gain possession just outside the penalty area. When Paulo Nagamura tried to close him down, Henry cut onto his right foot and, from just beyond the 18-yard mark, finished into Greuebaums’ upper-right corner to double New York’s lead.

54′ – KC’s quick response – Henry’s goal threatened the thwart momentum Sporting had built since the end of the first half, but with a quick response from their leading scorer, the visitors were able to respond to Henry’s insurance. Off a restart from the right flank, Seth Sinovic headed a ball down at the far post, finding Dom Dwyer at the edge of the New York six-yard box. A quick reaction from the league’s second-leading scorer allowed Dwyer to get his left foot behind the ball, elevated to volley Sporting’s opener past Robles and into the middle of goal.

Lineups

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Jámison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya (Armando 65′), Roy Miller; Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty, Péguy Luyindula, Eric Alexander; Thierry Henry (Ruben Bover Izquierdo 90′), Bradley Wright-Phillips
Sporting Kansas City: Andy Gruenebaum; Igor Juliao, Aurèlien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum (Jorge Claros 70′), Paulo Nagamura (C.J. Sapong 85′), Benny Feilhaber; Toni (Sal Zizzo 58′), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi

Three lessons going forward:

1. The thin margins of MLS – Lose Jimmy Neilsen, Chance Myers and Oriol Rosell, see a slight downturn in from from Matt Besler and Aurèlien Collin, and all of a sudden the league’s best defense looks bad. It illustrates how thin the margins are in MLS. Not only is the league designed with parity in mind, but the nature of the league’s rosters means there isn’t a wealth of talent in reserve when things go wrong.

Downgrade at a couple of places, and you may not have the resources to recover. We’ll see if this holds true for Kansas City.

2. The confusion of DOGSO – You hear about The 4 Ds when judging denial of obvious goal scoring scenarios: Direction of the ball; number of Defenders; Distance from goal; Direction of play. From a certain point of view, a perfectly reasonable one, Bradley Wright-Phillips had all of those factors in his favor in the 10th minute. From another point of view, Besler was just going in for a ball that wasn’t fully in Wright-Phillips’ possession, yet.

Does that even matter? You can imagine a scenario where a player is in on goal, gets fouled, and has yet to touch the ball. You can also imagine situations where players making a valid play for the ball commit a foul that’s less an attempt to prevent a chance than an attempt to win possession. When, during the course of establishing possession, do The 4 Ds become relevant?

But again, does that even matter? DOGSO is a strange, controversial place, often one that’s best left to the professionals. Tonight, one of those professionals decided Besler’s infraction was a somewhat benign foul, one that happened to be committed in the 18-yard box.

3. Big result for both sides – Sporting didn’t seem to be taken by surprise in this one (D.C. United loss). They weren’t undone by set pieces (Houston). They weren’t trying to stop one of the league’s hottest midfielders (New England). The defending champions seemed focused on Saturday, had chances to end their slide, yet they still lost.

With every result, this is looking like more than a slump. The team may only go as far as that struggling defense will take them.

For New York, it was the game Mike Petke wanted. The attack could have done more with its changes. At times, the defense gave Sporting too much control (particularly at the end of the first half). Through all that, the Red Bulls got three points.

Like their coach said yesterday, no excuses. The team got it done.

Where this leaves them:

  • The win vaults New York fifth in the East, the team’s 34 point pushing Toronto into out of the conference’s top five.
  • Sporting is still six points clear of third in the East, but the team has lost four in a row for the first time since 2011.