It’s tempting to portray any late season MLS match as a make-or-break moment, but with today’s game between the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City in Harrison, N.J., there may be some justification in talking up the higher stakes. For a Sporting team with new defensive woes, Saturday represents a chance to renew the team’s quest for the Supporters’ Shield, while a New York squad that’s seen the East heat up around it will be looking to spark a postseason return.
Saturday’s showdown kicks off a 7:30 p.m. at Red Bull Arena, with coverage available live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Particularly with Australian international Tim Cahill gone on national team duty, New York’s focal point will again me Thierry Henry, whose role as playmaker in Mike Petke’s system has led to a breakout season for Bradley Wright-Phillips (20 goals) as well as a place among the league’s assist leaders. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, that production hasn’t saved New York from a step back this season, with last year’s Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign giving way to a sixth place standing in the Eastern Conference.
For Sporting, the focus is on a defense which, normally one of the team’s strengths, has allowed nine goals in its last three games. With talents like Matt Belser and Aurèlien Collin in the middle, the back line’s recent performance seems like a fluke, but with the likes of D.C. United, Houston, and New England able to post big results, there’s little about Sporting’s recent form that says they’ll have success containing Henry.
For one team, the turn around could start tonight, with New York and Sporting hoping to reverse their fortunes at Red Bull Arena. Lineups:
New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Jámison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, Roy Miller; Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty, Péguy Luyindula, Eric Alexander; Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips
Sporting Kansas City: Andy Gruenebaum; Igor Juliao, Aurèlien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber; Toni Dovale, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi