MATCH PREVIEW: Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs NEW YORK RED BULLS
SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
March 8, 2015 (WEEK 1, MLS Game #9)
7 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes) Find Fox Sports 1 on your TV

A pair of clubs who last faced each other in the MLS Cup Playoffs will open the 2015 season against each other – albeit in different conferences this year – when Sporting Kansas City play host to the New York Red Bulls on the MLS debut on Fox Sports 1. A year ago, the Red Bulls dispatched Sporting when the clubs met in the Knockout Round. But with the addition of expansion teams Orlando City and New York City FC, Sporting have moved to the Western Conference – so if the teams meet again this year, it will have to be in MLS Cup 2015.

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. AR1 (bench): Fabio Tovar; AR2 (opposite): Chris Strickland; 4th: Sorin Stoica
MLS Career: 45 games; FC/gm: 22.8; Y/gm: 2.8; R: 16; pens: 11

SUSPENDED: none
DISABLED LIST: none
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (51 meetings): Sporting 19 wins (2 shootout), 64 goals… Red Bulls 20 wins (2 shootout), 63 goals… Ties 12
AT KC (27 meetings): Sporting 14 wins (2 shootout), 40 goals… Red Bulls 9 wins (1 shootout), 32 goals… Ties 4

2014 (MLS)
5/27: KC 1, NYR 1 (Dovale 9 – Wright-Phillips 50)
9/6: NYR 2, KC 1 (Wright-Phillips 11; Henry 52 – Dwyer 54)
10/26: KC 0, NYR 2 (Wright-Phillips 15, 70)

  • This is the only league meeting between the teams this season.
  • The Red Bulls have a four-game undefeated streak alive in league play against Sporting, including victories in the last two regular season meetings a year ago. SKC last won in the series in the first meeting in 2013.
  • The teams also met in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs a year ago, the Red Bulls taking a 2-1 victory at Red Bull Arena.
  • The Red Bulls have come away with points on their last four visits to Sporting Park. Sporting had come away with points on their last three visits to Red Bull Arena before the New York win in the only Harrison encounter last year.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. NYR: P13 W4 L6 T3 … Jesse Marsch vs. KC: P3 W1 L1 T1

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City saw defense of their MLS Cup championship come up short a year ago, falling at the Knockout Round stage after a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Peter Vermes is back for a sixth consecutive season in charge of the bench duties, after seeing his side record 49 points last year.

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting concluded their preseason with a 3-2-2 record following a 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC in the finale of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz.
  • Here’s the Sporting team: Tim Melia (Jon Kempin 46); Saad Abdul-Salaam, Erik Palmer-Brown, Jalil Anibaba, Seth Sinovic; Servando Carrasco, Mikey Lopez (Marquis Brooks 67), Paulo Nagamura; Jimmy Medranda, James Ansu Rogers, Connor Hallisey.
  • Sporting boss Peter Vermes ran out nine of 11 starters for the full 90 minutes in the match against Seattle, the team’s fourth in the Desert Diamond Cup (where they went 1-1-2).
  • “It definitely showed in the last 20 to 25 minutes, but at this time of year you don’t expect to be operating at 100 percent,” said SKC assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin. “It was necessary for these guys to have to push through physically and mentally to get 90 minutes. I think they managed that along with the rest of the game really well.”
  • Krisztian Nemeth scored five goals to lead SKC during their preparation matches, while Bernardo Anor was second with two. Sporting scored 12 goals in their seven preseason matches.
  • Newcomers James Ansu Rogers and Connor Hallisey also netted goals in the preseason, Hallisey scoring in the finale vs. Seattle.
  • “In terms of filling the final roster spots, I think we have a good idea of what the guys within camp can contribute,” said Zavagnin. “I think a lot of our young guys have done extremely well, and we have a very good idea of which guys are going to stick around. You can see a lot of that with Connor Hallisey, James Ansu Rogers, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Amadou Dia.”
  • Sporting made a key signing in the final days of preseason, acquiring Canadian national team defender Marcel de Jong. De Jong has logged more than 225 club appearances over his past 10 professional seasons in Netherlands and Germany, including stints with Dutch side Roda JC Kerkrade (2006-10) and German Bundesliga club FC Augsburg (2010-14), and has won 31 caps with Canada.

NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls came ever so close to a second trip to MLS Cup a year ago, falling to the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference after a fourth-place finish during the regular season. Since then it’s been all change for the Red Bulls, with Jesse Marsch taking over head coaching duties for Mike Petke after his two seasons in charge.

TEAM NEWS

  • The Red Bulls concluded their preseason schedule with a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia Union in the finale of the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic in Bradenton, Fla.
  • Here’s the Red Bulls team: Luis Robles, Chris Duvall, Damien Perrinelle (Matt Miazga, 46’) , Ronald Zubar, Roy Miller CAP, Lloyd Sam (Peguy Luyindula, 69’), Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe Martins (Sal Zizzo, 69’), Mike Grella (Anatole Abang, 87’), Bradley Wright-Phillips
  • 2014 MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the lone New York goal in the match, his second in as many matches to end the preseason.
  • The Red Bulls were undefeated in their group to reach the final of the IMG event, going 2-0-1 ahead of Toronto FC, USL side Oklahoma City Energy FC and Danish outfit HB Koge.
  • “I think from when we were given our first instructions of how to play, with the high press and all that, it’s just gotten better and better each day,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “You can tell from the results of this tournament that things have worked. We don’t normally have great results in preseason for as long as I’ve been here, so it’s good to start off the season well.”
  • The Red Bulls concluded their preseason preparations with a 4-2-1 record, only one loss coming against MLS opposition (also falling to the USL Jacksonville Armada in early February).
  • “The idea is when we do pressure, we go as a group,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “It starts from the front and goes all the way to the back. We have to make sure there’s a lot of communication and that our spacing is right. Obviously for me I can’t have too much space between me and my backline. It’s going to put some pressure for me to come out of my comfort zone, but everything that he’s asking for each individual is a little bit out of our comfort zone and I think that’s good. We’re going to grow as players, we’re going to grow as a team and I think we’re excited about the challenge ahead of us.”
  • The Red Bulls figure to include both new boys Felipe and Sacha Kljestan in their opening day team. Felipe played for new Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch in Montréal; Marsch and Kljestan were teammates at Chivas USA from 2006-09.
  • “Everybody knows that we have a lot of quality in the middle with Sacha and Dax. We have quality players,” Felipe said. “[Jesse] knows that I can play a lot of positions in the midfield. Maybe underneath the attacker, but the way we’ve been playing, it’s me and Dax in the middle and Sacha up front. I think this is the way we’re going to play, but he knows I can play other positions. I am ready to play anywhere. I just want to help the team and do my best.”
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