If the New York Red Bulls’ 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday was any indication, we’re in store for two more dogfights between the two Eastern Conference heavyweights.
The teams played the first of three regular-season matches on Sunday, and it was a chippy encounter that saw 32 fouls called and five players earn yellow cards. Sporting KC looked the better of the two sides for much of the game, but neither team was able to pick up all three points and the boost in confidence that would have come from doing so.
New York will host Sporting KC two more times before the regular season ends and with the Eastern Conference lead likely to be up for grabs again, the Red Bulls are expecting things to be just as difficult and physical as what they experienced at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“We said at halftime, ‘This will be ugly,’” Red Bulls head coach said Hans Backe after the game. “It was a lot of 50-50s and headers in the box. Both teams definitely wanted to win the game. We play them two more times, and I’m glad that we play them at home. Still, Kansas City is a strong away team as well. They are hard to break down.
“There were some guys who picked up yellow cards that were a bit in the danger zone to get a second yellow. It wasn’t easy for the referee because of all of the set plays and the battle when you have 16 players in the 18-yard box. It makes it difficult to see elbows and things like that.”
Sporting KC take their first trip to Red Bull Arena on Sept. 19 before stopping by again on Oct. 20. The tone has been set for how those matches will play out, and New York know that not even home-field advantage will guarantee wins.
“It is definitely tough when you play a team three times in a short span,” Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty said after the game. “But it’s good, it really starts to test your character as a team, because they are one of the best teams in the league.”