The Red Bulls returned to the top of the Eastern Conference table with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Kansas City.HARRISON, N.J. – After destroying Eastern Conference rival D.C. United at their home, the New York Red Bulls returned to Red Bull Arena and an attendance of 20,636 to host Sporting Kansas City. The result of the match, a 1-0 victory for New York, was not as dominating as those against D.C. or the San Jose Earthquakes a fortnight ago, but the outcome allowed New York to regain first-place in the East after the Philadelphia Union won earlier in the day.
Luke Rodgers, the English striker formerly of Notts County, scored the match’s winner in the 22nd minute, a nice follow-up to the two-goal performance against the ‘Quakes that saw him win MLS Player of the Week. The finish absolved Designated Player Rafael Márquez whose 13th minute penalty was saved relatively easily by Kansas City’s spry goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
The remainder of the match was comprised of a few dangerous opportunities by New York before Kansas City, following some substitutions, even out the play in the second half. Despite the improvements in the final 45, Sporting was unable to ever truly trouble Bouna Coundoul who enjoyed a comfortable evening in net during his side’s victory.
The Red Bulls controlled the night’s opening ten minutes, but did display the same fluid passing as they did during their previous two matches. Dwayne De Rosario (or Andrew Chapin, the head official, to those fans tuning in from Missouri) gave New York a fantastic chance to take the lead when Stéphane Auvray tugged him in the box. De Rosario, who received the ball from a nice layoff from Thierry Henry, went to ground when he felt the contact. Márquez, though, was not able to convert his penalty after Nielsen read his hesitation and saved the Mexican’s attempt.
The Red Bulls were able to finally take advantage of their superior play when Kansas City went into a momentary lull after a foul on Dane Richards. Instantly Márquez played a firm pass to the feet of Henry who flicked one-touch to De Rosario on the wing. The Canadian found a streaking Rodgers who powered his finish past a sprawling Nielsen.
Rodgers has become known in MLS for both his intelligent movement and his apparent interest in stirring some conflict with opponents. A brief scrum ensued when Rodgers followed a ball bobbled by Nielsen. The goalscorer made contact to the Danish keeper’s face before Kansas City’s players came to protect their teammate. Rodgers was administered a caution for his part in the mêlée.
New York continued their attacking pressure on the SKC goal, but Nielsen was prepared for any Red Bull strike. In the 39th minute, Julio Cesar gave away a pass in front of his penalty area that De Rosario collected before bending a shot on goal. Nielsen stretched and tipped the chance out of play. Rafa Márquez then swung the ensuing corner to the Tim Ream, but Nielsen blocked the defender’s powerful header.
The second half began with three introductions; the Red Bulls the injured duo of Teemu Tainio and Rogers with Carl Robinson and Juan Agudelo while C.J. Sapong made way for Ryan Smith in the Kansas City eleven. With Tainio off the pitch, the Red Bulls lost a significant influence in the middle of the park. Smith, on the hand, injected Sporting with a dribbler who took on the Red Bull backline.
The evening’s final 45 minutes were bereft of too truly threatening opportunities for either side, but Kansas City did maintain a better attacking presence. In the 61st minute, for instance, Tim Ream attempted to clear a Kei Kamara cross, but his flicked header was directed towards an onrushing Graham Zusi who just barely volleyed over Coundoul’s goal-frame.
Stoppage time was the most interesting period of the middling second period which included Mehdi Ballouchy being booked for simulation after falling in the Sporting penalty area. Kansas City’s final opportunity to equalize came when Smith ‘scissored’ down to the Red Bull byline. His cross, though, was gobbled up by Coundoul and Chapin whistled to signal a RBNY victory.Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!