September 19, 2012
In a first-place confrontation, Red Bulls outplayed by Kansas City in 1st home loss of season
By Michael Lewis
|Kenny Cooper had two second-half chances for the Red Bulls.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- With so much to play for, the Red Bulls showed very little on Wednesday night.
In a confrontation for first place in the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls' chances of winning the Supporters Shield and winning the Eastern Conference crown took a major hit as Sporting Kansas City came into Red Bull Arena and showed the hosts how to play the game.
Behind first-half goals by C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara KC solidified its hold on the conference in Major League Soccer with a well-deserved 2-0 win over the Red Bulls, who lost for the first time at home this season. The Red Bulls entered the game with 10-0-3 home record.
The subpar effort and loss left the Red Bulls (14-8-7, 49 points), in third place, trailing first-place Sporting KC (16-7-6, 54) by five points with six games remaining in the regular season.
In a surprise move, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe decided to start Tim Cahill, usually a midfielder, at forward while leaving Kenny Cooper and Sebastien Le Toux on the bench. The move did not pay any dividends for the hosts before a crowd of 10,286.
Almost like clockwork, the Red Bulls surrendered an early goal to the opposition. While it wasn't in the opening 10 minutes as it has been in other recent matches, it was early enough to put the Red Bulls on their heels.
Kansas City was awarded a free kick by referee David Gantar on what appeared to be a soft foul just outside the penalty area. Teemu Tainio touched Graham Zusi as the midfielder fired a shot. It did not look like it warranted a foul, but Gantar gave the visitors a free kick.
Half the field players -- five Sporting KC players -- touched the ball within seconds before it was deposited into the back of the net by C.J. Sapong in the 12th minute. Kei Kamara, one of three players standing over the ball, started the free-kick sequence with a short nudge to Roger Espinoza, who shuffled the ball to Zusi. The U.S. international midfielder whacked a shot off the crossbar. The ball bounded to Matt Besler, who fed Sapong. The KC forward turned and, with five Red Bulls around him, fired a shot past Gaudette for a 1-0 advantage.
KC's second goal also came off a dead-ball situation as Zusi was in the middle of this play as well. He flicked a corner kick into the area to an unmarked Kamara, who headed the ball past Gaudette for a two-goal lead in the 19th minute. Wilman Conde had give Zusi plenty of room to head the ball.
Two minutes later the Red Bulls finally took a shot at the visitors' goal as Cahill headed the ball from 17 yards wide left. He duplicated that effort from 15 yards in the 44th minute.
Rafa Marquez made a head's up play that almost resulted in a New York goal in the 22nd minute. After a poor pass by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen
he Mexican international stripped Julio Cesar of the ball in the attacking third and raced in on goal. Instead of shooting, Marquez fed Thierry Henry with a wide pass on the left side, but Henry could not get off a dangerous shot as he and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen collided just outside the left side of the goal box.
At first, Henry was in pain, pounding his left fist on the ground. He recovered and played the rest of the half, but did not make much of an impact.
In an attempt to pump some life into his team, Backe pulled right midfielder Dax McCarty for Cooper at halftime. Cahill went to midfield.
Obviously, the game was getting to the Red Bulls and Henry. With Nielsen wasting his time going after the ball after a Red Bulls offside in the 50th minute, Henry ran and got the ball and slammed it to the ground so KC could take the free kick.
Cooper had a couple of chances early in the second half. He sent a long-range bouncer that Nielsen easily handled in the 56th minute on a play that he might have tried to get his teammates closer to shoot, and a minute later his six-yard header off a Henry cross from the right side sailed wide left.
Henry tried to cut the lead in half in the 63rd minute, but his glancing header near the penalty spot was caught by Nielsen.
With still nothing dangerous on goal, Backe put in his fastest man, Lloyd Sam, for Joel Lindpere in the 69th minute.
Le Toux replaced Tainio in the 74th minute.
During a scramble in the 78th minute, Sam put a shot of note on net, but Nielsen dived to his right to make the save.
Zusi almost made it 3-0 in the 87th minute, but Gaudette made a diving save off a counterattack.