The New York Red Bulls are away for their final long road trip of the season to face Sporting Kansas City in a match that will decide which team will lead the Eastern Conference in the final stretch of the regular season. While the two sides will play twice more in the remaining eight games of the season, KC will be hoping to stretch their advantage before two visits to Red Bull Arena.
The Eastern Conference race has been a phoney war for much of the season so far, with tonight's match the first meeting between the two top sides. After starting white-hot in the first two months of the year, Sporting KC cooled down markedly as summer approached, only managing four wins in fifteen games after April 19. However, they have found form once again with three straight victories leading into this match, wins against New England, DC, and Toronto, with just one goal conceded in 180 minutes of play.
Two of those wins were over sub-par opponents (to put it mildly), and they left it very late against a horrible Toronto side, but KC will have some confidence back after their good run. The Red Bulls will certainly be buoyed by their fantastic comeback victory last week, and can take some heart from a solid record against the Kansas outfit under Hans Backe. On the other hand, New York hasn't been very good away from home, winning a few games with a bit of fortune and generally not impressing against the other top sides. Translation: flip a coin if you're going to bet on this game.
The team news is not great: as reported yesterday, Ryan Meara is out for the season, and Rafa Márquez is out until some point at which the universe will collapse. Thierry Henry will miss out because his girlfriend gave birth to a son on Thursday. Best wishes to Thierry and his family. Joel Lindpere is one yellow card away from suspension, and with a home game against DC coming up in midweek, we definitely don't want him to pick up a booking in this match.
After this brief, intense period with two huge games in four days, the Red Bulls don't play again until Columbus visit RBA on September 15, so picking up at least four, but hopefully six points in this half-week will be very important. Stop by before kickoff or during the game for our match thread.