HARRISON, New Jersey (AP) — Scoring has been an issue in all but one match for the New York Red Bulls, and Sporting Kansas City typically isn’t the club to fix that against.
Add in health concerns on the back line, and Saturday’s meeting at Red Bull Arena might not be the night for the Supporters’ Shield holders to expunge any doubt provided by a disappointing first month.
Kansas City (3-1-0), meanwhile, enters the weekend as the only MLS club averaging more than two points per game.
“As good as they are, we want them to come here and make them uncomfortable and put them in a hard game,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “… It’ll be a lot this game about who can establish their pace within the game and their rhythm, but also then who’s able to make plays in both boxes – both by scoring some goals and by putting out some fires.”
The Red Bulls (1-3-0) have been held scoreless in three of their four matches, including a 1-0 defeat at New England last Friday in which they played the last half hour with 10 men due to a Felipe Martins red card.
Martins has two of the club’s four goals this season as 2015 leading scorers Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam remain goalless in a combined 651 minutes.
The lone breakdown against the Revolution came with Kemar Lawrence exiting immediately after the play with a knee injury, and the outside back who filled in at center back due to need is considered doubtful.
They already know they’ll be without Felipe in the midfield, as well as defenders Gideon Baah and Ronald Zubar due to hamstring ailments.
Along with Lawrence, that’s three potential starters likely missing for a back line that entered the season already needing answers after Matt Miazga’s transfer to Chelsea and offseason knee surgery for Damien Perrinelle.
Sporting is at least a club Marsch feels his squad can emulate in training.
“I think it’s the team that’s probably the closest to how we play, which means we’ll have a very fast-paced game,” he said. “… When it does get open, dealing with guys like Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Brad Davis and Dom Dwyer getting on the end of plays is not easy, so it’ll be a big challenge for our back line and our whole team.”
The Red Bulls have success in the series to fall back on, with four wins on a six-match unbeaten streak, though the clubs haven’t met since a 1-1 draw in Kansas City on March 8, 2015. Sam scored, while Wright-Phillips has six goals in five career matches against Sporting. Dwyer has three goals is six career matches against New York. Over those six matches, the British trio has accounted for 11 of the 17 goals.
Sporting has allowed fewer goals than any MLS club dating to the start of 2013 and three this season, but Matt Besler will miss the match with a concussion. The center back was also out for last Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake as Kansas City’s three-match winning streak to start the season came to an end.
“You have to stay even keel,” Davis said. “That’s why after three games, when we were 3-0, we weren’t throwing big parties. … We need to go back and review what we did. Overall, it’s been good, but what we need to look for throughout the season is consistency and to continue to try to get better. Tonight wasn’t our best so we need to get back to the previous weeks’ performances.”
While New York’s striker has been silenced this season, Kansas City’s has not. Dwyer has two goals, while Feilhaber converted from the penalty spot in stoppage time against Salt Lake in the playmaker’s first game back from an abdominal strain.
The match from suburban New York kicks off at 6 o’clock on Saturday night.