Sporting KC drops close contest to Red Bulls, 3-2

Sporting Kansas City fell 3-2 to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night in New York in a riveting rematch of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.

Bradley-Wright Phillips and Johnny Russell traded early goals before a Roger Espinoza thunderbolt vaulted the visitors ahead six minutes into the second half.

The Red Bulls rallied behind substitute Marc Rzatkowski, who bagged two long-range strikes in the space of seven minutes to give New York a narrow victory at Red Bull arena.

The result sees Sporting KC (9-5-6, 33 points) and New York (11-5-2, 35 points) retain third place in their conferences.

Manager Peter Vermes’ 300th regular season match in charge of Sporting KC drew an end to the club’s three-game winning streak over the Red Bulls, who had suffered a 2-1 defeat in the U.S. Open Cup Final last September at Children’s Mercy Park.

Two of Sporting KC’s four lineup changes from last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Toronto FC came in central defense. Emiliano Amor and Graham Smith entered the fray in place of injured duo Ike Opara and Matt Besler – the latter of whom was a gameday scratch due to back spasms.

Elsewhere, Espinoza and forward Daniel Salloi returned after serving one-game red card suspensions while Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal and Diego Rubio dropped to the bench.

Saturday also marked the return of Sporting KC midfielder Felipe Gutierrez – the MLS Player of the Month for March – who logged his first appearance since April 20 after overcoming a sports hernia injury.

The hosts took just four minutes to land the first punch, taking a 1-0 advantage when Wright-Phillips gathered a through ball from Kaku and chipped neatly past Tim Melia for his 12th MLS goal of the season and his eighth career tally against Sporting KC in all competitions.

Kaku earned his league-leading 11th assist on the play as Sporting KC conceded their second-earliest goal of 2018.

A frantic start saw Sporting KC restore parity in the eighth minute. Homegrown defender Jaylin Lindsey lofted a diagonal ball from the left channel to the right side of the box, where Graham Zusi settled the pass and drove a low cross back into the center of a crowded penalty area.

Russell was on hand to steer a simple finish into the gaping net for his team-best seventh MLS goal and his second in as many games.

Lindsey registered his first assist in a Sporting KC uniform, becoming the youngest player in club history to assist a goal at 18 years and 109 days.

Both sides exchanged near misses before the 15-minute mark as an enthralling spectacle continued to unfold.

Kaku sent Wright-Phillips on a galloping run behind the Sporting KC defense, but the Englishman’s left-footed effort flashed wide of Melia’s left-hand post.

Shortly thereafter, Salloi picked off a lazy back pass from New York defender Tim Parker and rounded goalkeeper Luis Robles on the breakaway, but the 21-year-old’s angle became too tight to shoot. Salloi instead pulled the ball back for Gerso Fernandes, whose shot from the edge of the 18 was blocked.

Wright-Phillips asked further questions of Sporting KC’s backline in the 22nd minute, sending a low ball across the face of goal that a lunging Amor hammered behind for a corner kick.

The Red Bulls striker threatened again seven minutes before halftime, smashing a one-time shot just over the bar from a tight angle off Alex Muyl’s teasing cross.

At the opposite end, Lindsey cushioned a cross-field service from Espinoza to the feet of Croizet at the top of the box in the 35th minute. The Frenchman’s shot was blocked and the ball fell to Fernandes who went down under Parker’s clumsy challenge, but referee Kevin Stott waved play to continue.

Russell then drove at the New York defense and curled a left-footed strike inches wide with Robles rooted to the turf.

Espinoza fired Sporting KC ahead six minutes after the restart. Zusi roamed down the right flank and held the ball patiently near the endline prior to playing backwards to Espinoza.

The Honduran was afforded space from 25 yards out and unleashed a seething rocket that screamed past Robles and into the roof of the net. The stunning goal was Espinoza’s first of the season and gave Zusi the seventh multi-assist game of his decade-long MLS career.

The visitors were unsatisfied with their 2-1 lead and searched for more near the hour mark, but Salloi’s half volley off a looping cross from Croizet sailed high and wide.

The Red Bulls responded with a dangerous opportunity on 68 minutes. Tyler Adams slipped a through ball to Wright-Phillips who had snuck behind the defense, but Melia raced off his line and forced the attacker to pass back to Adams.

The resulting shot was strewn wide but almost directed goalward by Derrick Etienne near the six-yard area.

New York was not denied an equalizer on their next foray forward. Adams overlapped down the right wing and rolled a low cross to Rzatkowski, who sent a daisy cutter into the left corner to open his MLS scoring account and level terms at 2-2.

Saturday’s end-to-end contest continued to enthrall in the late stages, with Zusi and Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer both coming close only to be thwarted by the goalkeeper.

These opportunities came just before the 79th minute, when Rzatkowski bagged his second sensational goal of the night with a 25-yard piledriver into the top left corner.

A quick turnaround awaits for a Sporting KC side that resumes its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title defense on Wednesday against rivals Houston Dynamo.

The quarterfinal showdown is set for 7:30 p.m. at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, marking the fourth straight year the rivals have met in the U.S. Open Cup.

SportingKC.com will stream the match live as Vermes’ men aim to capture their fourth Open Cup title in seven seasons and the club’s fifth overall.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC travels to New York Saturday

A pair of MLS originals occupying third place in their conferences will lock horns Saturday at 6 p.m. when Sporting Kansas City (9-4-6, 33 points) battles the New York Red Bulls (10-5-2, 32 points) in a marquee matchup at Red Bull Arena in New York.

FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will air three hours of live coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m., while listeners can catch the action on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).

The game will also stream live on FOX Sports GO in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa and on ESPN+ elsewhere across the U.S, while the Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide live updates.

Sporting KC held top spot in the Western Conference for 15 straight weeks before a recent skid saw FC Dallas usurp manager Peter Vermes’ men at the summit.

Consecutive road defeats to the Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake were followed by an exciting 2-2 draw against Toronto FC last Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.

Ilie scored a 57th-minute equalizer from the penalty spot before Johnny Russell bagged his 100th professional goal to give Sporting KC a 2-1 lead, but the Reds drew level on a 69th-minute strike from Jordan Hamilton.

Russell is now tied with fellow forward Daniel Salloi as Sporting KC’s top goal scorer this season. The duo has notched seven goals apiece in all competitions while also racking up six assists each in MLS play.

While Russell and Salloi have maintained solid scoring rates, midfielder Roger Espinoza is in the best playmaking campaign of his MLS career. The Honduran has a team-best eight assists and places fourth league-wide with 36 chances created from open play.

Manager Jesse Marsch parted ways with the Red Bulls last week to take an assistant coaching job with German side Red Bull Leipzig, ending a successful four-year stint in New York that included three playoff appearances, a 2015 Supporters’ Shield title and a 58-35-25 record.

Replacing him at the helm is former U.S. international and MLS veteran Chris Armas, who has served as an assistant under Marsch since 2015.

The Red Bulls suffered a 1-0 defeat to rivals New York City FC last Sunday in Armas’ first game in charge, snapping their four-game MLS unbeaten run. Maximiliano Moralez slotted home in the 85th minute at Yankee Stadium to move five points clear of their cross-city counterparts in the Eastern Conference table.

A dangerous New York attack figures to give the Sporting KC backline a stern test this weekend.

Vermes’ side ranks among the top scoring teams in MLS – their 35 goals through 19 games are already five shy of equaling last season’s total – but the club’s defensive form has regressed in recent weeks. The club has allowed 12 goals across its last five games in all competitions, conceding the first goal in each match.

Nevertheless, reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia still owns a league-best seven shutouts.

Prolific Englishman Bradley Wright-Phillips continues to serve as the centerpiece of New York’s potent offense, ranking second in MLS with 11 goals in 2018.

The Red Bulls are averaging two goals per game, the fourth-best clip in MLS, largely thanks to the contributions of Wright-Phillips and his supporting cast. Since 2014, his 104 regular-season goals are 31 more than any other player.

In the attacking midfield area, newcomer Kaku has enjoyed a brilliant first MLS campaign with a league-best 10 assists, while wingers Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl have chipped in six goals.

New York has been particularly lethal at home, where they have outscored opponents 20-4 and posted a 6-1-1 record.

A major championship was up for grabs the last time these clubs met in September 2017.

Children’s Mercy Park was the setting for a hotly contested Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, which saw Sporting KC lift their fourth trophy in six seasons. Daniel Salloi scored what turned out to be the match-winner in the 66th minute before Bradley Wright-Phillips provided a consolation goal for the Red Bulls in stoppage time.

The 2-1 victory gave Sporting KC their fourth Open Cup title and denied the Red Bulls their first cup of any kind.

Sporting KC has won three straight meetings in the series, including a 2-0 triumph when the club last visited New York in April 2016, and owns a 3-1-1 record over their last five regular-season visits to Red Bull Arena.

Vermes’ side holds a 3-3-3 road record this season and is one shy of the club’s 100th all-time away win in the MLS regular season.

Six of Kansas City’s 99 regular-season road victories have come against the Red Bulls – including three wins at both Red Bull Arena (2012, 2013 and 2016) and the now-demolished Giants Stadium (1999, 2000 and 2009).

Four Sporting KC players will miss Saturday’s match through injury – namely Brad Evans (Achilles), Cristian Lobato (knee), Jimmy Medranda (knee) and Khiry Shelton (knee) – but midfield talisman Felipe Gutierrez has been upgraded to questionable after missing the last two and a half months with a sports hernia.

Gutierrez was named the MLS Player of the Month in March after scoring five goals in his first five appearances for the club. Center back Ike Opara is also listed as questionable after straining his hamstring in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Toronto.

On the opposite sideline, midfielder Florian Valot had registered three goals and five assists in his first MLS season before suffering a torn ACL in training last week. Joining him on the New York injury report is fellow Frenchman Vincent Bezecourt, who will be sidelined with a knee ailment.

– Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC offense misfires in 2-2 draw against Toronto

Midfielder Ilie Sanchez scored on a penalty kick in the 57th minute. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

Several near-misses cost Sporting Kansas City a chance at victory on Saturday night, settling for a 2-2 draw at home against Toronto FC.

With his lineup depleted by injuries and suspensions, head coach Peter Vermes still praised the team’s effort.

“To be able to be leading the game 2 – 1 and create the kind of chances that we did, and have the hunger to try and score like we did, I say it again, I’m very proud of the team.”

Sporting KC controlled the start of the game, with two shots in the first 10 minutes that nearly found the net. Toronto stabilized and then was able to take the lead midway through the first half on a goal by midfielder Jonathan Osorio.

Kansas City struck back early in the second half when Gerso Fernandes was taken down near the Toronto goal, handing Ilie Sanchez a penalty kick opportunity that he knocked cleanly past the goalkeeper.

Kansas City moved ahead in the 61st minute when Diego Rubio found Johnny Russell in the middle of the field near the 18-yard line.

Sporting KC gave up the equalizer in the 69th minute to Toronto forward Jordan Hamilton. Although they continued to press in the late minutes of the game, Sporting KC wasn’t able to convert, with more near misses taking their toll.

Said Johnny Russell, “You know, we’ve hit the crossbar with a couple of them, headers I’ve just missed and a few shots I’ve just missed as well. So on another night you know we score two, three more goals. But tonight wasn’t our night in that sense.”

Sporting Kansas City plays on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, July 14. Their next home game is July 28 against MLS Western Conference leader FC Dallas.

Officer Dustin Dierenfeldt of the Kansas City, Kansas, police department performed the national anthem. Color guards from the police department and the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s office presented the colors. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell knocked in a shot from the edge of the penalty area in the 61st minute. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Many area police and fire departments had equipment on display before the game. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Johnny Russell was upset at just missing a header on goal early in the game. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Gerso Fernandes was taken to the ground on this play, earning Sporting KC a penalty kick. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell played the ball into the center, pursued by Toronto defender Justin Morrow (2). (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Defender Graham Zusi played the ball up the right sideline as head coach Peter Vermes implored the team to move forward in support. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Midfielder Ilie Sanchez hopped the wall surrounding the field in order to thank a supporter in the stands after the game. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Johnny Russell played a volley on goal but his shot was over the goal. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
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