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Sporting Kansas City look like their old selves in win at New York

Apr 17, 2013, 10:59 PM EDT

Sporting Kansas City v Vancouver Whitecaps Getty Images

An early set piece and then stifling defense? That’s page one of Sporting Kansas City’s playbook, a plan that’s consistently brought success under Peter Vermes. Tonight in New York, we got to see that plan in action again, with an early goal from Aurelien Collin holding up for Sporting’s 1-0 win over the Red Bulls.

The win vaulted Kansas City to the top of the East for the first time this season, their 14 points now one better than Montréal. New York stays in fifth with eight points in as many games.

Collin, as he’s apt to do once or twice a month, had a night where he looked like the league’s best defender. In the 13th minute, he beat Jamison Olave to a near-post corner from Graham Zusi to put KC up 1-0, giving an early lead to the one team you don’t want finding the first goal. At the end of the field, he relished what turned into a small battle between himself and fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry. With Henry’s tendency to go left, Collin was always going to be challenged more than Matt Besler, and he stepped up: eight interceptions; eight clearances; six headers won; four tackles; two blocked shots. With help from the rest of the defense, Collin limited Henry to one 16th minute shot on goal.

Higher up the pitch, things were even more encouraging for Sporting. They looked like the same feisty, intent team that pestered teams into submission last year, when Roger Espinoza was patrolling midfield. Vermes may not have fully replaced the Honduran international, but if keeps getting efforts like tonight’s (when Sporting pestered New York relentlessly before taking their lead), Kansas City won’t take the big step back some were expecting when they lost the new Latic.

Eventually New York raised their level of play and were able to keep the ball for prolonged periods of time (attempting 431 passes on the night), but held at arms length by timely KC challenges, the Red Bulls only put three shots on goal. That’s less a reflection of their lack of quality than Kansas City’s stalwart defending. Against most of the league, New York would have probably broken through, but against an in-form Sporting, even energetic forays from Henry and Fabian Espinola couldn’t threaten Jimmy Nielsen. At no point did it seem like Kansas City would give up their lead.

At halftime Mike Petke expressed disappointed with this team’s performance, and given his team didn’t a result at home, the Red Bulls’ boss is bound to see tonight as a failure. But Wednesday’s outcome may have been more about what Sporting did right than what New York did wrong. Anytime you give Kansas City the first goal, you’re in for a long night, not matter how well you play going forward.

  1. jpan007 - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    why can Red Bulls win?

  2. arjanroghanchi - Apr 18, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    Losing Olave was huge, he is not only a beast in defense but has great distribution and is deadly from set plays, of which there were a few.

    I know Steve loves him some Heath Pearce but I just don’t see what he brings to the table.

    The Red Bulls have a great roster, but can’t put together two great performances in midfield.

    Obekop looked bright. Bover seemed a little nervous on the ball but did play one near perfect ball in to the box.

    • Steve Davis - Apr 18, 2013 at 10:39 AM

      Yes, I have sounded the trumpet for Heath in the past. But this year. … he just hasn’t looked the same so far.

  3. charliej11 - Apr 18, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    KC is just so good. One more scorer and they are the favorites.

  4. dreadpirate82 - Apr 18, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    When Juninho takes a free kick, does his foot inject a little helium into the ball? It seems to float every time he touches it. Except when he booted it at Jimmy Nielsen, who “really looked hurt”. Nice play-acting, Puma.

    Another excellent defensive match for SKC, and on the couple of occasions where someone got behind them, Nielsen was always positioned perfectly. He didn’t have to do anything too acrobatic. Just another solid match. Besler had the one (rare) misjudgment of the ball over his head in the second half, but otherwise he and Collin were excellent.

    I am so glad Roy Miller doesn’t play for my team. Some missed opportunities there.

    Do any opposing fans like Aurelien Collin or Dax McCarty? I love Collin, but I’m pretty sure he’d be public enemy #2 (Lenhart #1, of course) on another team, and McCarty has a lot of the same annoying qualities. They both suffer from what I call “Jay Cutler Face”, as the constant whiny faces and complaining do not exactly endear them to other fans.

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