September 19, 2012
In a vital confrontation for 1st place, Red Bulls show very little in 1st home loss of the season
By Michael Lewis
|Tim Cahill: "I donít think thereís anything special to their team. I think we didnít perform tonight."
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.
Red Bulls coach Hans Backe summed up his team's plight quite well in the opening remarks of his post-game press conference.
"Poor marking on two set plays in the beginning," he said. "Too many lost 50-50 when you play against Kansas, two many unforced errors. It's a tough one to go down like that, but it was a better second half. We created a decent number of chances, but couldn't really hurt them. They were the better team today."
Tim Cahill, usually a midfielder who started at forward, felt the Red Bulls made Kansas City the better team.
"I donít think thereís anything special to their team," he said. "I think we didnít perform tonight. Compared to the game on Saturday, weíve got to be really disappointed to what happened tonight. They won, credit to them. Thereís not much to say about that game except to put it behind us."
What he saw on the RBA pitch, Cahill could not believe.
"Thatís definitely not the team I know," he said. "Weíve got a lot more fight than that. We still created the chances, but we conceded two really soft goals and when you get down like that so early it affects the team and it affects the way you play. Tonight wasnít a night where we come back, but itís just got to be put right as soon as possible."
That would be against the New England Revolution in Foxborough, Mass. on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, a place where the Red Bulls have not won in a decade.
In a surprise move, Backe decided to start 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.
"When you play against a team like Kansas, you need possession, you need to get players up-front to get a hold of the ball and you need midfielders that can get a hold of the ball and hold possession," Backe said. "Because if you get too hectic, they are one of the better teams who can get pressure on the ball and they force you to kick it and thatís not our game."
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.
For the fourth time in five games, the Red Bulls allowed the opposition to score first. They're 2-1-1 during that span.
"Itís so important," Cahill said about allowing early goals. "To concede two goals that early, you just canít do it because itís an uphill battle. Theyíre a very physical team. You see every time thereís a challenge, or something going on in the middle part, the ref gets swarmed asking for yellow cards. Theyíre asking for free kicks. I donít see this in football, you know what I mean? Just play the game and get on with it. Thatís what frustrated me the most tonight.
"The poor ref was smothered every time there was an incident. The ref is on the pitch to do a job. He doesnít need their coach and their players swarming the ref asking for yellows and asking for fouls. We lost the game ourselves. Yes theyíre a good team, but we definitely should have competed a lot better. I really wanted to win this game so much tonight: for us, for the fans, and for what weíve done in the last two months.