Competition: Major League Soccer – Sporting Kansas City vs New York Red Bulls
Venue: Sporting Park – Sunday, March 8 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 3)
Match Odds: Sporting Kansas City 21/20 – Draw 12/5 – New York Red Bull 5/2
These sides were separated by just one point in the final Eastern Conference standings in 2014 but it was the Red Bulls who progressed between the two sides in their playoff matchup back in October.
The Red Bulls fell to New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semi-final, and both teams will want to make the playoffs once again in 2015.Embed from Getty Images
Sporting KC failed to win their opening two games last season and will be hoping to get off to a better start this year as they begin life in the Western Conference.
It took the Red Bulls seven games to record their first victory of the 2014 regular season, so they did well to end up in the playoffs but poor results are something new head coach Jesse Marsch will hope to put behind the team in his first competitive match.
Both these teams ended their respective seasons without a win in three games in all competitions so starting the new year with a victory would be a real boost.
Sporting KC can try to emulate the Revs playoff performance against New York by hitting them later on in the game. The Red Bulls’ inability to shut out sides eventually cost them and this is something Kansas City will hope they can exploit on Sunday night.
Home games are so important, especially in terms of advantage, so Kansas City should be feeling the more comfortable of the two sides ahead of this one.Embed from Getty Images
In the last five meetings between the sides, New York have won three, Kansas City one, and there has been one draw. But with changes to both squads over the offseason, these results are simply a thing of the past.
There have been ten goals in those last five meetings, so this is usually a high scoring matchup, but as we saw in the season opener between LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire, teams could well take time to settle into their game and neither side will want to lose any ground early on.
Sporting Kansas City could have three absentees ahead of the game. Chance Myers (achilles) and Kevin Ellis (concussion) will both miss out but their biggest concern will be for goal machine, Dom Dwyer, who has a sprained ankle. If the Englishman is out it will be a huge miss for SKC as Dwyer netted 22 league goals last season.Embed from Getty Images
New York Red Bulls’ squad is looking in good shape for the game, with no reported injuries. But of course they will be without the departed Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, so this is a huge game as we will learn how they will shape up without their superstars. The pressure is on Bradley Wright-Phillips, who ended 2014 as the top goalscorer in MLS last season with 28 and he needs to deliver the goods for his side again.
Sporting Kansas City’s form: N/A
New York Red Bull’s form: N/A
Key Stat: Goal Machines – Bradley Wright Phillips (28) and Dom Dwyer (22) netted an astonishing 50 goals between them last season. Both of these Englishmen will be looking to better that this year but as mentioned, if Dwyer is absent, BWP has a chance for an early advantage.
Key Player: Bradley Wright-Phillips – The pressure on this man is huge. New York Red Bulls fans will be expecting him to step up to the mark as the leader of the side now and his new Designated Player contract means he needs to deliver.. If he can get on the scoresheet tomorrow it will be a signal of intent that he means business and can spearhead the team without the help of Henry.
Sporting Kansas City 1-1 New York Red Bulls – Both sides will want to hit the ground running but will be out to avoid defeat so we could see a tense opener.