The Red Bulls cannot get their act together. A 2-1 loss to the hands of Minnesota United has the team winless in their last three. Now, the team heads to Children’s Mercy Park to take on Sporting KC.
Sporting has had troubles of their own as of late. They crashed out of the CONCACAF Champions League after two crushing losses to Monterrey. A 5-0 loss in Mexico was followed by a 5-2 loss at home, resulting in the lopsided 10-2 aggregate result.
Sporting was clearly outclassed over the two legs, fielding a full strength squad in both fixtures. With just three days in between their match with Monterrey and the Red Bulls, many supporters questioned the choice to start the first team in the return leg.
Currently sitting at 7th in the west, Sporting has started well in MLS. They are unbeaten in their last four league matches and have been strong offensively. A 7-1 drubbing of the Montreal Impact saw forward Krisztian Nemeth bag a hattrick with Johnny Russell notching a brace as the dynamic duo headline the offense.
Gerso Fernandes also had two assists in the victory. The Portuguese winger has had a solid start to the season and was the scorer of both ultimately redundant goals against Monterrey. Paired with Russell and Nemeth up top, the Sporting attack is something to fear.
Russell in particular has been a revelation since joining from Derby County just over a year ago. The Scotland international is a terror on the wings and should be a serious concern for the Red Bulls and their shakey defense. Fullbacks continue to be an issue for the team, with injuries and mental lapses plaguing the backline.
Michael Murillo was suspect against Minnesota United last match, switching off completely for United’s first goal. Abu Danladi was left uncontested in the box and slotted home an easy chance. Armas will need to address these problems ahead of the Sporting match as their front three will be relentless. All three forwards are dangerous in front of goal and need to be accounted for at all times.
The offense has been just as much to blame for the recent drought. The Red Bulls have just one goal in their last three matches as the team struggles to put anything together moving forward. A goal from Cristhian Casseres unfortunately meant nothing as the Red Bulls tried to spark a comeback against Minnesota.
Mathias Jorgensen also struggled in his first start for the club, registering just 15 touches all match. The young Danish striker certainly has some growing to do before he becomes a threat, but it was exciting to see him get meaningful minutes for the team.
Marcus Epps also saw the field for the second time this season as he replaced Michael Murillo in an offensive driven substitution by Armas. Derrick Etienne also came into the match with Epps at the 59th minute to no avail as the Haitian continues his attacking woes.
This is not going to be an easy match for the Red Bulls to try and get back on track. Sporting KC lost just twice during the regular season at home last year and is two for two in home wins this MLS season. The only advantage is the weak break the Red Bulls have had, with Sporting coming off their match on Thursday.
Away matches are tough for any MLS team, but the Red Bulls seemed to have turned a corner during last season. They had one of the best away records in the league, which in turn helped them win the Supporters Shield. They hope to summon some of that form back in Kansas City, as a win would do wonders for the team overall.
Armas put out a slightly different lineup to start against Minnesota, but an early injury to Alex Muyl forced him to change that. It will be interesting to see how he sets up against Sporting KC as he looks to fix both the fluttering offense and mistake ridden defense.